France restore damaged pride

France bounced back from successive Six Nations defeats to beat Italy 29-0 in Rome on Sunday.

The performance may not have been as polished as the scoreline suggests, but it was the result that mattered for under-fire coach Phillipe Saint-André. Having lost their previous two matches against the Azzurri in Rome, another failure would've seen the axes being sharpened.

The first half saw little in the way of flowing rugby, as a high error-rate meant neither side managed any sort of continuity. The hosts weren't helped by the late withdrawal of flyhalf Kelly Haimona, while his replacement, Tommy Allan, limped off after just 14 minutes.

Two penalties from Camille Lopez and one from Scott Spedding saw France going into the break with a 9-0 lead. Lopez failed to return for the second half, with Jules Plisson slotting in at flyhalf and assuming the kicking duties.

In a match of very little quality, a moment of class from Spedding briefly lifted the mediocrity, as his break resulted in a first Test try for lock Yoann Maestri.

Wrecking ball centre Matthieu Bastareaud was on hand to complete the rout after the hooter, as he crashed over under the posts after a quick tap from Rory Kockott.

Despite the win, France remain in fourth place on the Six Nations log – two points behind the trio of England, Ireland and Wales – and will close out their campaign next Saturday against the English at Twickenham.

France – Try: Yoann Maestri, Matthieu Bastareaud. Conversion: Jules Plisson (2). Penalties: Camille Lopez (2), Scott Spedding, Jules Plisson.

Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Andrea Masi, 11 Giovambattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Samuela Vunisa, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 George Fabio Biagi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Marco Barbini, 20 Guglielmo Palazzini, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Enrico Bacchin.

France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Sébastian Tillous-Borde, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Subs: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Vincent Debaty, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images