France’s 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign is up and running after a 32-10 Pool D victory against Italy on Saturday at Twickenham. Rabah Slimani and Nicolas Mas scored tries while Frederic Michalak kicked 19 points to help Les Bleus complete a solid start to its World Cup campaign. The French take second spot in their group after Ireland ran riot against Canada in a 50-7 triumph earlier on the day.
A pair of Michalak penalties had put Philippe Saint-Andre’s charges in front after 10 minutes but then the most controversial aspect of the World Cup reared its ugly head again – the officiating. Noa Nakaitaci appeared to have scored the opening try of the match but after having awarded the try, referee Craig Joubert reversed his decision after replays on the stadium big screen showed the French winger dropping the ball and Joubert blew for a knock-on instead.
Michalak landed another three-pointer on 27 minuets before Tommaso Allan put the Italians on the board with seven first half minutes to go. Scott Spedding landed a special from inside his own half before Michalak put another one over just on the stroke of half-time to put Saint-Andre’s men up 15-3 at half-time. Saint-Andre would have been proud of his side’s 43rd minute try akin to his playing days.
Nakaitaci broke clear in the first instance, before finding prop Guilhem Guirado who held off a tackler on a 20-metre run before falling just short of the line and after recycling the ball found its way to Michalak whose kick through bounced beautifully for Slimani to dive over for the night’s first try. The French flyhalf’s conversion made it two successful kicks in the space of three minutes and it was 25-3 at rugby’s HQ. The Azzurri were back in the contest seven minutes later when wing Giovanbattista Venditti went over.
From a French scrum, Venditti received the ball down the line and crossed the line in the right corner before running towards the posts to hand Allan an easy conversion. The two tries were classy, attacking pieces of play. Yoann Huget’s mach was over on 54 minutes when his knee appeared to buckle as he attempted to evade a Luke McLean tackle. Later images showed the France wing on tears on the bench although there was no immediate word on his prognosis.
Mas scored Les Bleus’ second try of the evening 14 minutes later to wrap up a convincing win for the three-time World Cup silver medallists. Jacques Brunel would have targetted this fixture as one his men might have won but without inspirational skipper Sergio Parisse the southern Europeans found the going even tougher and based on earlier form in the day a win against the Irish appears a tall order. That said Brunel will take heart from Japan’s stunning upset win over South Africa in Brighton and believe that anything is possible.