JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Battle-hardened France show patience, pragmatism

Date

Luke Phillips

Thierry Dusautoir starred for France.

Thierry Dusautoir starred for France. Photo: AP

PARIS: The defence-driven pragmatism that saw France reach the World Cup final resurfaced in their opening Six Nations victory over Italy on Saturday.

Led magnificently by captain Thierry Dusautoir and indefatigable No.8 Louis Picamoles, France offered up stout defence without ever straying offside, content to play the waiting game as the Italians slowly unravelled.

When the Italians infringed, the unerring boot of Dimitri Yachvili was on call to keep the scoreboard ticking along for the home side.

Italy's captain Sergio Parisse (R) tries to catch the ball despite French flanker Julien Bonnaire. Click for more photos

Favourites France draw first blood in Six Nations

World Cup finalists avenge shock defeat against Italy in last year's Six Nations. Photo: AFP

Tries were also scored by Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and impressive debutant Wesley Fofana, as Italy failed to convert their early domination of territory and possession into points.

"It's a first victory. You have to have a smile," said coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who was installed after Marc Lievremont was stripped of the job following the World Cup, where the French lost 8-7 to New Zealand in the final.

"As a coach, you seek perfection but today you saw a great defence, a good discipline and we even scored four tries."

France scored tries through Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana, allied with 10 points from Dimitri Yachvili's boot, the Italy managing just a drop-goal and two penalties from Kris Burton, and a third penalty by Tobias Botes.

But Saint-Andre, who cut his coaching teeth with English side Gloucester before spells with Bourgoin, Sale and a return to France with Toulon before taking on the national job, said there were also downsides in his team's performance.

"The glass is half full and half-empty," the 44-year-old former France winger said.

"Up front we could have performed better. We lacked aggressiveness at the start of match in clearing out and as for taking the game to them, we did some things of quality but we were often guilty of failing to finish them off well.

"We won two scrums against the head, including one that led to Malzieu's try, so we can't say the scrum was irregular as such. On our lineout, however, we lost a lot of ball."

Saint-Andre acknowledged that patience was key to the game, given that Italy had held out in the World Cup against Ireland and Australia for the opening hour of each match.

"We analysed the World Cup matches and up to the 60th minutes it was always 9-6, 6-6, and it was really in the final 20 minutes that you saw the difference so we had to be patient," he said.

"We saw in their game a tactic to go for territory but today they were much more ambitious in their gameplan and keeping the ball.

"Italy employed a strategy that saw them keep the ball. They didn't give it up easily."

Saint-Andre also had a sharp word directed at replacement scrum-half Morgan Parra, speaking out at the annoyingly regular image of players booting the ball into touch to bring the game to a premature end, often to boos from the public who have paid a lot of money to attend international Test matches.

"I wasn't happy about the last action," he said. "We saw a situation where we kicked the ball into touch.

"You must play the ball, enjoy it. The match was won, sure, but you mustn't kick the ball into touch. The pleasure of playing must carry on until the final second."

Meanwhile, Italy coach Jacques Brunel was left to ponder the shortcomings of his team.

Worrying for a team whose strength has always been based on a strong tight five, their scrum creaked badly, and they lost two against the head, one of which led directly to a crucial French try.

"In the first half, we kept a lot of possession and took the initiative, and dominated territory, and were only 15-6 down at half-time," said Brunel, who took over from South African Nick Mallett after the World Cup.

"But we made two mistakes in the scrum, which didn't go well, and we paid a heavy price.

"We showed a good spirit on the pitch, always trying to attack and put the French on the backfoot. It's sometimes difficult to find the words to explain the missed passes and everything else that went wrong.

"We put the French defence under pressure but the final gesture just got away from us, but the spirit was there and that's the most important thing."

The main lesson learnt, Brunel said, was for all "to know that to dominate is not to win".

"I think we enjoyed 75 percent of territory and 65 percent of possession in the first half," he said.

"We also had three or four chances to score a try but we never managed it, as France did.

"That shows their value, they were able to turn everything around with very few chances. That's the difference.

"But we're on an interesting path. We want to continue advancing."

Captain Sergio Parisse, who plies his club trade with Top 14 outfit Stade Francais, called on his team to be more cynical.

"We've had very little time to work together before this match. We knew coming here for a result would be tough against a team who are World Cup vice champions, at home," the No 8 said.

"We showed ambition, a desire to play, we had lots of ball but we needed to be more cynical because we had chances to score but didn't."

He added: "At half-time with the score at 15-6, we said to one another 'hey that's not bad, we can cause them trouble'.

"But I don't recall having dominated the game. France had some ball on the turnover, played it well and managed to score some tries."

AFP

Related Coverage

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs SHA 02:05Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs STO 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 3 2 1 0 47 10
Cheetahs 2 2 0 0 7 9
Hurricanes 3 3 0 0 47 13
Chiefs 3 3 0 0 31 13
Rebels 3 1 2 0 -5 6
Stormers 2 2 0 0 23 8
Highlanders 2 1 1 0 1 5
Sharks 2 1 1 0 11 6
View all
 
Featured advertisers