Noves calls for clear heads after close shave
France 23-21 Italy
Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30
New France head coach Guy Noves accepts his squad have plenty of hard work ahead after they produced a late comeback to finally see off Italy in Paris.
Italy's two previous away wins in the championship they joined in 2000 both came at Scotland's expense, but with five minutes remaining in Paris the Italians led, only for Jules Plisson's long-range penalty to deny Jacques Brunel's side a famous victory, with Italy captain Sergio Parisse missing a drop-goal attempt in added time.
Noves, who took over from Philippe Saint-Andre after the World Cup, admitted his men had made it tough for themselves.
Noves had 22 years at the helm of Toulouse before taking the international job, winning 10 French league titles and four European crowns. The 62-year-old knows he will need to pep up the French performance significantly if they are to have an impact on the tournament.
"Despite a very short training period ahead of the game, we managed to win and with a very refreshed team, so the boys showed a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "However, we did not always play with a clear head and there were no rhythm changes. We did not play fast enough. I had the feeling that players aged between 20-29 were actually 35, so we will have to talk about this.
"It is good to take risks, but you have to be intelligent too, that is to find the balance between the will to play and managing the game."
Despite the manner of what was in the end a somewhat fortuitous victory, there were still some positives for Les Bleus, notably the try-scoring debut of Fiji-born wing Virimi Vakatawa, while Damien Chouly and Hugo Bonneval also went over.
Noves said of Vakatawa: "He lived up to our expectations, shook his opponents and did not overthink it for his first (France) game. I hope he will continue to improve."
It was confirmed post-match that barnstorming No 8 Louis Picamoles suffered a tear to his right thigh which forced him off during the first half, and will rule the Northampton Saints-bound player out of the next match with Ireland.
Italy coach Brunel hopes the performance of his squad will give them something to build on for the rest of the campaign, which continues in Rome against England on Sunday.
"We showed character and that we have an identity. We wanted to be a tough opponent and we managed that," he said.
The terrorist attacks of November 13 in the French capital prompted a ramped-up security operation. Five hundred military personnel were employed to patrol the first major event to be staged at the venue since the attacks. President Hollande was present, as he was on the night of the attacks.
Scorers - France: Vakatawa, Chouly, Bonneval try each; Plisson 2 pens, con; Italy: Canna try, pen, con, d-g; Parisse try, Haimona pen.
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