France are just a single match away from the Grand Slam after they dismantled Italy yesterday. Given that their final opponents are England, also in Paris, Marc Lièvremont's men appear overwhelming favourites to complete their first Six Nations clean sweep since 2004.
Italy did not detain the home side for long. Three tries in the first 23 minutes wiped away any hopes Nick Mallet's men may have had of upsetting Les Bleus, who look almost certain to win the Six Nations title whatever happens in next weekend's final round of fixtures.
The outside-centre David Marty, preferred in the starting line-up to the giant Mathieu Bastareaud, justified Lièvremont's selection by scoring two tries in eight minutes, both while Italy were down to 14 men, with Gonzalo Garcia banished to the sin bin.
Wing Marc Andreu and flanker Alexandre Lapandry both scored their first tries for their country, the former on his home debut. And, with other tries coming from the powerful No8 Imanol Harinordoquy and Marty's centre partner Yannick Jauzion, and Morgan Parra kicking seven goals from nine attempts, the French were heading for a landslide victory as they led 46-6 after 65 minutes.
But Italy produced a spirited rally that brought them late tries from Carlo Del Fava and Pablo Canavosio, with Mirco Bergamasco adding both conversions to give the score a modicum of respectability
Mallett, though, does not believe Martin Johnson's side will be able to halt the French juggernaut: "I don't think they'll score tries that easily against England because we missed very simple tackles. But the French are a very good team, the best in this championship, and they will win the Grand Slam."
Harinordoquy said that the players were only now starting to think about winning the Grand Slam: "Today the big thing was to win; we knew it wouldn't be easy against Italy. Generally, we did what we had to do to win this match. Now the last objective is to beat England and win the Grand Slam."
France: Tries Harinordoquy, Marty 2, Andreu, Jauzion, Lapandry. Conversions Parra 5. Penalties Parra 2. Italy: Tries Del Fava, Canavosio. Conversions Mi Bergamasco 2. Penalties Mi Bergamasco 2.
France: Poitrenaud; Andreu, Marty, Jauzion, Palisson; Trinh-Duc, Parra; Domingo, Servat, Mas, Nallet, Pierre, Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Harinordoquy. Replacements: Malzieu for Poitrenaud (64), Bastareaud for Jauzion (69), Yachvili for Trinh-Duc (58), Szarzewski for Servat (40), Poux for Mas (40), Chabal for Nallet (48), Lapandry for Dusautoir (58).
Italy: McLean; Masi, Canale, Garcia, Mi Bergamasco; Gower, Tebaldi; Perugini, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Geldenhuys, Bortolami, Sole, Ma Bergamasco, Zanni. Replacements: Bocchino for Gower (76), Canavosio for Tebaldi (30), Ongaro for Ghiraldini (66), Aguero for Castrogiovanni (66), Del Fava for Bortolami (55).
Referee: A Lewis (Rep of Irl).Reuse content