Ruthless Les Bleus warm up for Slam
Published 15/03/2010 | 05:00
England will have found little encouragement as they attempt to gatecrash France's Grand Slam party in this ruthless demolition of an abject Italy side in the Stade de France sunshine.
France heeded the warning of their coach Marc Lievremont not to take Italy lightly and in running in six tries in an entertaining, if one-sided contest, they sent out an ominous warning to England who are next up at the Stade de France on Saturday evening.
Having laboured to a draw at Murrayfield, England look ill-equipped to deny France their first Grand Slam in six years and there were only crumbs of comfort available to Martin Johnson and his coaching team from this game.
England are unlikely to defend as badly as Italy did throughout this game and they may be able to exploit a couple of frailties that Italy managed to exploit, albeit when France had made a raft of substitutions and were already celebrating victory.
But France captain Thierry Dusautoir did not sound convincing when he talked of England's chances of denying his side their Grand Slam.
"Of course when France have to play England in an important game we respect them," he said. "Next week is very important for us; maybe they want to come here to win and stop our victory in the Six Nations."
But Italy coach Nick Mallett is in no doubt that England will have to produce a major upset if France are to be denied.
"It's France's to lose," Mallett said. "They are a very strong side whereas England's performances against us and against Scotland were not very good or convincing.
"We didn't play well today but France are one of the top two or three sides in the world." To say Italy didn't play well was an understatement. Their defence was flaccid, their line-out creaked and the brainless sin-binning of centre Gonzalo Garcia midway through the first half proved costly.
Garcia was yellow-carded for a blatant body check on Marc Andreu and France were quick to expose the gap his absence left in defence. Centre David Marty ghosted through for the first of two tries while Garcia was missing.
Marty scored his second after the destructive Imanol Harinordoquy had splintered the Italian defence and delivered a perfect pass, just as he had in the seventh minute when Morgan Parra arrived in support.
Having scored 22 points in the first 26 minutes, France knew that they had the game won which allowed Lievremont to bring on his replacements and to start focusing on England.
Andreu, the fourth right-wing used by France in five matches, celebrated his first start with a spectacular try when he came off his wing and scythed through close to the posts.
Andreu then turned provider, opening up Italy with another darting run before offloading to Yannick Jauzion, who clattered through some powderpuff tackling.
Italy again waved Alexandre Lapandry through for his first international try after Julien Malzieu had jinked through the midfield.
Parra embellished victory by kicking five conversions and two penalties, but Italy's persistence was rewarded with two fine tries of their own from Carlo del Fava and Pablo Canavosio, which suggested that France may have some defensive vulnerabilities.