Australia scored seven tries to thrash a weakened France 50-23 in Brisbane on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
None of the French players who were involved in last weekend's Top 14 final were available for this match, and it showed as the Wallabies put them to the sword. A full strength Les Bleus should be more competitive in the next two matches of this series, but it's difficult to see them coming back from such a heavy opening defeat.
The Wallabies were in a different class, even after losing captain Stephen Moore to injury early in the match.
Bernard Foley opened the scoring with a penalty, before Frédéric Michalak kicked a drop goal. That was as good as it got for the French.
Israel Folau recently broke the Waratahs' try-scoring record for a Super Rugby season and the winger scored the Wallabies' first try of 2014 when, following good work from Wycliff Palu and James Slipper, he got past two French defenders.
Foley slotted the conversion and then sparked his side's second try when his left-footed grubber was collected by Nick Cummins close to the line. Five phases later, Adam Ashley-Cooper went over to make it 15-3.
Michalak clawed three points back with his first penalty, but the Wallabies struck again when Tevita Kuridrani tap-passed to Michael Hooper, who ran 25m to score. While referee Craig Joubert initially thought it was a forward pass when watching replays on the big screen, another angle changed his mind and the try was awarded.
Michalak kicked his third penalty, only for Felix le Bourhis to gift the Wallabies a fourth try just before the break when he dropped a pass and failed to regather the ball behind his line. Matt Toomua was the grateful recipient.
It took the hosts 15 minutes of the second half to add to their tally when Toomua gave a deft inside pass to Ashley-Cooper. He broke the line and found Folau, who switched with Cummins.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie then emptied his bench and it was two of those substitutes, Kurtley Beale and Pat McCabe, who scored their next two tries, which took them to 50 points.
The French, though, did finish well, with Morgan Parra's try followed by a penalty try, which came from a dominant 5m scrum in the last play of the game.
Wallabies – Tries: Israel Folau. Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe. Conversions: Bernard Foley (6). Penalty: Foley.
France – Tries: Morgan Parra, penalty try. Conversions: Frédéric Michalak (2). Penalties: Michalak (2). Drop goal: Michalak.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Peku, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 James Horwill, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Pat McCabe.
France – 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Felix le Bourhis, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 3 Nicolas Mas (c), 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Subs: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Antoine Burban, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Remi Lamerat, 23 Brice Dulin.
LEATHERMAN PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Michael Hooper took over the Wallabies captaincy when Stephen Moore left the field in the fifth minute, and went on to lead by example. The openside flank impressed with ball in hand (scoring a good try from 25m out), on defence and at the breakdown.
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