Italy 3 France 39: Chabal enjoys easy pickings on Rome menu

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The Independent Online

The happy, unthreatening atmosphere here on Saturday - all Mexican waves and songs of "Italia, Italia" - might have seemed an incongruous backdrop to an absolute pasting for Italy by France, who scored five tries to none including two by the Sale No 8 Sébastien Chabal. In fact, given the minute's silence before kick-off in memory of the policeman killed by rioting soccer fans in Sicily on Friday night, it was a reminder of rugby's sedentary place in Italy's sporting psyche.

Rome fell quiet again yesterday, with Lazio's Serie A match against Chievo included in the countrywide cessation of professional football. The rugby fraternity thanked the heavens that they have no truck with tear gas and riot squads, but it could not change the fact that, on the field, they came up terribly short.

Italy have much soul-searching to do before facing England at Twickenham on Saturday. "We have to find the Italian game, and not wait to see what the opposition does," said the flanker Mauro Bergamasco, hobbling on a bruised thigh after Italy stumbled to a 32nd defeat in 36 Six Nations matches.

Marco Bortolami, the captain, said: "Everyone plays 100 per cent against Italy now so it is going to be difficult. We have to be strong and maybe we'll learn more from this than the easy moments."

The Azzurri's blue-sky thinking had been based around a dynamic scrum, but the massive tight-head Carlos Nieto was penalised for boring in early on and France's pack were not to be bullied, although they lost eight throws at the line-out. France have lost only once to Italy in 28 meetings over 70 years.

Chabal was initially off the pace, but with Italy kicking away possession he gradually picked them off.

Tries by Christophe Dominici and Cédric Heymans helped to establish a 17-3 lead before Chabal heaved half of Italy over the line. He scored again four minutes after half-time, then Yannick Jauzion was fed by Heymans and Clément Poitrenaud for a fifth try. "I felt that if it didn't go well it might be all over for me with France," Chabal said.

With Ireland next up in Dublin on Sunday, the French announced a 22 last night, with the XV to follow tomorrow, and will continue to rotate players ahead of the World Cup. Among the possible half-back permutations for Croke Park are Dimitri Yachvili alongside Skrela or the 21-year-old Lionel Beauxis, while there were call-ups for Sale hooker Sebastien Bruno and Perpignan centre David Marty. If the French have seen enough of Chabal for now, Imanol Harinordoquy of Biarritz will be at No 8.

"It's not difficult, it's very good," said Jo Maso, France's manager, of changing a winning team.

Italy: Penalty Pez. France: Tries Dominici, Heymans, Chabal 2, Jauzion; Conversions Skrela 4; Penalties Skrela, Beauxis.

Italy: R de Marigny (Calvisano); A Masi (Biarritz), G Canale (Clermont-Auvergne), Mi Bergamasco, D Dallan (both Stade Français); A Scanavacca, P Griffen (both Calvisano); S Perugini (Toulouse), F Ongaro (Saracens), C Nieto (Gloucester), S Dellape (Biarritz), M Bortolami (Gloucester, capt), J Sole (Viadana), Ma Bergamasco, S Parisse (both Stade Français). Replacements: R Pez (Bayonne) for Scanavacca, 12; A lo Cicero (L'Aquila) for Perugini, 48; C Festuccia (GRAN Parma) for Ongaro, 48; M Castrogiovanni (Leicester) for Nieto, 48; R Mandelli (GRAN Parma) for Dellape, 68; A Troncon (Clermont Auvergne) for Griffen, 70; K Robertson (Viadana) for Canale, 77.

France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); C Dominici (Stade Français), Y Jauzion, F Fritz, C Heymans (all Toulouse); D Skrela (Stade Français), P Mignoni (Clermont-Auvergne); O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibañez (Wasps, capt), P de Villiers (Stade Français), L Nallet (Castres), J Thion, S Betsen (both Biarritz), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin), S Chabal (Sale). Replacements: D Szarzewski (Stade Français) for Ibañez, 57; S Marconnet (Stade Français) for Milloud, 57; P Papé (Castres) for Chabal, 71; I Harinordoquy (Biarritz) for Bonnaire, 65; L Beauxis (Stade Français) for Fritz, 67; Milloud for De Villiers, 76.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

Stadio Flaminio details


Scrums won/lost 2/0
Lineouts won/lost 22/1
Pens conceded 6
Turnovers won 9
Passes completed 178
Line breaks 2
Possession kicked 40
Tackles made/missed 87/14
Total errors made 24


Scrums won/lost 8/0
Lineouts won/lost 18/8
Pens conceded 5
Turnovers won 8
Passes completed 122
Line breaks 7
Possession kicked 34
Tackles made/missed 118/12
Total errors made 20


Chabal (France) 8
Heymans (France) 8
Parisse (Italy) 8


Sole (Italy) 14
M Bergamasco (Italy) 13
Skrela (France) 13


Griffen (Italy) 3
Betsen (France) 2
De Villiers (France) 2


Jauzion (France) 3
Chabal (France) 2
Parisse (Italy) 2