Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - Page 19 News List

France crush Italy in rare consecutive wins

AFP, PARIS

Wesley Fofana of France jumps to score a try against Italy in their Six Nations rugby union match on Sunday at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.

Photo: Reuters

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said the most important thing to take from his side’s 30-10 victory over Italy in their Six Nations match on Sunday was that they had delivered back-to-back wins for the first time since November 2012.

The 46-year-old — whose side only beat Scotland and Tonga in 11 Tests last year — made the remark after a devastating period of play in the opening 15 minutes of the second half saw France extend their lead from 9-3 to 30-3.

The last time France beat both England and Italy in Paris, they went on to win the 2010 Grand Slam.

However, Saint-Andre — who must take his side to play two-time defending champions Wales in Cardiff on Feb. 21 — was not focusing on such ambitions, but instead on Franc having achieved something they failed to do last year.

“The main thing we should remember from this game is that we have back-to-back wins for the first time since 2012 and that is important,” the former France wing and captain said.

Saint-Andre, whose side finished bottom of the Six Nations last year, said he was pleased that his players had not lost their heads with the match evenly poised at 9-3.

“We had said throughout the week and at half-time that we would go for their throats at the beginning of the second half, which we failed to do against the English,” he added. “And that is what we did. We produced play of the highest quality. We were more direct in attacking them, Mathieu Bastareaud held the center of the pitch, and we moved the ball quicker ... and as a result scored three tries.”

Saint-Andre praised Italy for fighting back in a final quarter that saw them score a consolation try.

However, he was less complimentary about the manner in which the game degenerated, with France replacement lock Sebastien Vahaamahina sin-binned for petulantly kicking the ball away minutes after coming on and replacement prop Rabah Slimani sent off along with Italian Michele Rizzo for an exchange of headbutts.

It was the first time that two players had been sent off in a Five or Six Natons match since French duo Gregoire Lascube and Vincent Moscato were expelled in an infamous France-England clash in 1992.

“Like everyone else, the players got bored over the final 20 minutes, I mean, we were — I can tell you — in the stands,” Saint-Andre said.

“We had a yellow card, and I told Sebastien Vahaamahina that his gesture was totally out of place. Then there was our red card in which the Italian provoked him and he reacted badly,” he added. “After that we were down to 13 players, it was rubbish rugby.”

Italy coach Jacques Brunel, who guided the side to two wins last year over Franc e and Ireland in Rome, said it was a strange game.

“For 60 to 70 minutes we were a match for the French, except for the opening minutes of the second half completely changed the shape of the game,” said the 60-year-old Frenchman, whose side next play Scotland in what could be the wooden spoon decider as both have zero points.

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