Six Nations: France 30-12 Italy

By James StandleyBBC Sport

France gave new boss Philippe Saint-Andre the perfect start as they avenged last year's humbling Six Nations defeat by Italy with a comfortable victory.

Tries from Clermont pair Aurelien Rougerie and Julien Malzieu helped the hosts into a 15-6 lead at half-time.

Kris Burton landed his third kick soon after the break to make it 15-9.

But a converted Vincent Clerc score and try for debutant Wesley Fofana saw France cruise home in their first game since they lost the World Cup final.

It has been a dramatic year since Italy's historic 22-21 win in 2011, their first over France in Six Nations history.

France stumbled their way to the World Cup final, before producing a heroic performance as they slipped to

That heralded the end of the troubled reign of former coach Marc Lievremont, with ex-Gloucester and Sale boss Saint-Andre taking the reins.

Italy also have a new coach in the shape of Frenchman Jacques Brunel, who coached Perpignan to the French title in 2009, but despite a positive start from Italy, Saint-Andre's charges ultimately ran out convincing winners.

A 50m counter-attacking run from Malzieu, impressive on his recall to the side after being banished by Lievremont, set up the position for Yachvili to kick the hosts into the lead.

But Italy levelled after a sustained spell of pressure ended with Burton pinging over a long-range drop-goal.

It was the least the Italians deserved, but the score stung France and they went back in front through a 20th-minute try.

Recalled number eight Louis Picamoles made good ground from a tap penalty and the Italian defence was unable to reorganise itself.

When Yachvili moved the ball out Rougerie found himself up against two front row forwards and scythed through the lumbering Italians to score his 23rd Test try.

Yachvilli converted to make it 10-3, but a penalty from Burton kept the Italians well in the hunt.

Italy were enjoying plenty of possession and going through the phases well but they lacked the cutting edge of France and the difference between the two sides was perfectly illustrated just before the break.

Les Bleus won a scrum against the head and the influential Picamoles broke the initial line of defence before feeding 6ft 5in winger Malzieu, who beat four men on a spectacular solo run to the line.

It was the kind of individual ability that Italy, for all their greater ambition and expanded gameplan under new boss Brunel, lack in the backs.

And it shows the scale of the task facing the Frenchman as he tries to find players that can give the Azzurri a real threat out wide to go with their undoubted forward power.

They briefly cut the gap to six points when Burton landed a penalty soon after half-time but Yachvili quickly restored the margin with a penalty of his own.

And the hosts stretched clear when Francois Trinh-Duc and Rougerie both kicked ahead and the ball sat up invitingly for Clerc to cruise over untouched for a converted try.

Replacement Italy fly-half Tobias Botes landed a penalty just after the hour to make it 25-12 but France had not finished.

After the forwards had hammered away at the line, Yachvili flung the ball wide and debutant centre Fofana handed off Luke McLean to join fellow Clermont three-quarters Rougerie and Malzieu on the scoresheet.

France coach Phillipe Saint-Andre: "It's good to win but there is a lot of room for improvement. We will have to play at another level against Ireland next week.

"On the plus side, we scored four tries, we were disciplined and we did not a concede any try.

"On the negative side, we should gain more possession, we lacked aggression, especially at the beginning."

Scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili: "We are very happy to have beaten Italy because last year they beat us in Rome, so it's a bit of revenge.

"It's good to start the competition with a win. Many teams can win the tournament this year for sure.

"We are World Cup finalists and everyone is waiting for us, so it's going to be very hard."

Italy coach Jacques Brunel: "We are on the right track but we have to be realistic, we need to make progress. Dominating is not winning.

"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.

"I think we enjoyed 75% of territory and 65% of possession in the first half. We also had three or four chances to score a try but we never managed it, as France did."

France: Medard; Clerc, Rougerie, Fofana, Malzieu; Trinh-Duc, Yachvili; Debaty, Servat, Mas, Pape, Nallet, Dusautoir, Bonnaire, Picamoles.

Replacements: Maestri for Nallet (51), Szarzweski for Servat (55), Poux for Debaty (62), Parra for Yachvili (62), Harinordoquy for Picamoles (65), Beauxis for Trinh-Duc (75), Debaty for Mas (75), Mermoz for Rougerie (75)

Italy: Masi; Venditti, Benvenuti, Sgarbi, McLean; Burton, Gori; Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Van Zyl, Geldenhuys, Zanni, Barbieri, Parisse.

Replacements: Canale for Sgarbi (56), Bortolami for Van Zyl (56), Botes for Burton (56), Cittadini for Lo Cicero (63), Favaro for Barbieri (67), D'Apice for Ghiraldini (75), Semenzato for Gori (75).

Sin Bin: Geldenhuys (71).

Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales).

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