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Italy 3-39 France
Rome - 3 February, 2007
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Result: ITALY 3-39 FRANCE

Text us your thoughts on the game, especially if you are at the ground, to 81111 or e-mail us on


By Ben Dirs

Full-time: A fine start by France, who never really had to slip into top gear in beating Italy. Man-of-the-match Chabal was outstanding, as were the halfback pairing of Mignoni and Skrela. Italy, in contrast, were pretty limited and very poor.

79 mins: Italy try to breach the French line in the final seconds, but again the backs break down. The referee blows his whistle to signal a resounding French victory.

77 mins: Canale is poleaxed by Milloud and forced to leave the pitch. Massive hit by the French prop, like running into an Aga on legs.

76 mins: Seventeen phases from Italy, and barely a yard gained. The three-quarters really have struggled to get anything going today.

72 mins: Chabal, half French intellectual, half tramp, trudges off after a superb two-try display. Pape, a lock by trade, replaces him.

71 mins: Italy 3-39 France Italy stray off-side and replacement Beauxis punishes them with his first penalty kick. Italian scrum-half Griffen off, replaced by crowd favourite Troncon.

70 mins: The French taking the rise slightly now and decide to run it from behind their own posts. Good to see a bit of adventure, Jauzion getting the ball rolling and Dominici carrying the ball up to the halfway line before beign dragged down.

67 mins: Another change by France, young talent Beauxis on for Fritz at outside centre.

65 mins: Harinordoquy on for Bonnaire for the French.

62 mins: Italy 3-36 France
France are turning this into something of a rout, Jauzion crossing for his 13th international try. Skrela with the kick through, Heymans tapping back to Poitrenaud and French centre Jauzion barrelling over. Skrela with the conversion.

57 mins: France make two substitutions, Szarzewski and Marconnet on for Milloud and Ibanez. Italy still not making any inroads up front, despite their wholesale changes.

56 mins: More scrappy, careless play by the Italy backs, Mirco Bergamasco's sloppy pass in midfield allowing Dominici to kick through. However, the French wing is dragged down by his opposite number Masi just short of the line.

51 mins: De Villiers of France gets some treatment as does Italy's Bortolami, but both are fit to carry on. Mignoni wants an extra half-second and is snagged by Mauro Bergamasco. Otherwise, the little number nine has been pretty impressive today.

48 mins: Italy change their front row, lock, stock and barrel. Perugini, Ongaro and Nieto off for Festuccia, Lo Cicero and Castrogiovanni. That is very telling.

47 mins: Good, sweeping move by Italy, but once again they cough up possession, De Marigny knocking forward.

44 mins: Italy 3-29 France
Italy in disarray as Mignoni snipes on the fringes of a ruck and feeds Chabal for the number eight's second try of the match. Skrela converts and the French are destroying Italy at the moment. Chabal, meanwhile, is doing his World Cup hopes no harm.

41 mins: Early signs of life by Italy, centre Canale punching through the French defence deep inside his own half. But possession is once again turned over and Skrela drifts a delightful kick into touch inside the Italy 22.

41 mins: The second half is under way and there have been no changes at half-time. Surprising, given Italy's display so far.

Half-time: France will be extremely happy with that first-half display and it's anyone's guess what Italy coach Berbizier will be saying to his men in the dressing room. They need a miracle now. Their forwards have been outhustled and the backs have made far too many unforced errors.

40 mins: Italy 3-22 France
Choker for Italy just before the break, France on the charge and Chabal punching through, stretching and scoring his first try for his country. Skrela misses the extras but Italy, who have been very, very disappointing in the first half, are on the ropes.

39 mins: Loose back-play by Italy again almost leads to another French try, Heymans hacking through but Pez doing well to gather.

35 mins: Italy 3-17 France
Pez is the third man to have a go with the boot and he kicks Italy's first points from under the posts. No more than Italy have deserved so far.

33 mins: Italy hooker Ongaro wastes an overlap, tucking his chin in like an angry rhinoceros and getting turned over in front of the French posts. Some good build-up play as well but nothing going right for the hosts.

30 mins: Italy 0-17 France
Heymans scores under the posts. Chabal causing trouble on the fringes, Mignoni passing to Skrela and Skrela off-loading for the French left wing to gallop in unopposed. That had the whiff of a forward pass about it, but Skrela kicks the extras again and Italy are tottering.

28 mins: I forgot to mention that Pez, Italy's normal first-choice fly-half, is on for Scanavacca. But Italy still making unforced errors galore, Dallan fumbling a high French kick and giving away a scrum.

23 mins: Italy 0-10 France
France make something of nothing, Canale with a loose pass on the French 22, Ibanez hacking through and wing Dominici winning a foot race against Masi. Good football skills by Dominici to keep the ball in and he touches down beneath the posts. Skrela kicks the extras and that's a real kick in the teeth for the hosts, who have had the better of possession and territory.

20 mins: Stout defence by Italy as first Chabal and then Skrela are tackled short of the line. Extra class is evident in the French back-line, with Jauzion showing good feet to breach the Italian defence.

15 mins: Full-back Poitrenaud makes a darting break and Fritz kicks through when perhaps he should have retained possession. Little signs that France are beginning to break the Italian defence up. Scrappy from the home side thus far.

14 mins: The pitch, very sandy, really is cutting up and it's like Bambi on Ice at times with players losing their footing everywhere you look. When the scrums lock horns, it sends a shiver down the spine, but France seem to be getting the better of Italy's vaunted pack so far.

11 mins: Italy 0-3 France
Skrela has a chance to put France ahead, from the left of the posts and right on the 22. And Skrela does convert, easy as you like.

9 mins: Skrela with the grubber and Italy, scrambling, just manage to usher the ball into touch. However, France knock-on from the resulting line-out.

6 mins: Italy haven't found their kicking boots so far and De Marigny pushes a relatively straightforward penalty wide of the uprights from just inside the 22. Italy have to convert pressure into points or you suspect they will pay later on.

4 mins: Italy should have scored the first try, Scanavacca kicking through, the ball bobbling lose and Mauro Bergamasco being tackled just short of the line. Parisse then puts in a cross-field kick, but the French manage to tidy things up. However, play is called back and Scanavacca has a second chance to break the deadlock.

2 mins: Bright start by France as scrum-half Mignoni, the smallest man in the tournament, makes a sniping break. However, Italy get the first chance to put some points on the board, but Scanavacca slips on his run-up and pulls his long-range penalty wide.

1 min: Referee Wayne Barnes, a 27-year-old Englishman, blows his whistle and Italy's De Marigny gets the game under way.

1329 GMT: Italy's anthem isn't bad either, very jaunty indeed, and it's sung with some gusto. On a more serious note, we have a minute's silence for the policeman killed in last night's violence in Sicily. The two teams huddle as the crowd rise to their feet and the silence is dutifully observed.

1325 GMT: France emerge from the tunnel, closely followed by the home side. The Stadio Flaminio is basking in sun as the band strikes up and the French anthem - my personal favourite - is sung. Lots of French in by the sounds of it, but they're all caught out by the verse. Laporte looks a little embarrassed, not sure he knew that one. Better to ignore it altogether, otherwise you end up looking like John Redwood trying to sing the Welsh anthem. Daft apeth.

1320 GMT: Hasn't been the best weekend for Italian sport what with the violence in Serie A on Friday, but the Stadio Flaminio is an altogether different prospect - a very chilled and friendly atmosphere.

"It would be great to see Italy really take the game to the French. They are an underrated side with some good players - as Bortolami has proved at Gloucester this season."
Paul Jones, Cheltenham

1310 GMT: Laporte hasn't exactly got the French playing fluid rugby of late, and while New Zealand are head and shoulders above everyone else at the moment, they cannot fail to have been shellshocked by the way the All Blacks larruped them in two Tests last autumn.

1305 GMT: Italy have beaten France once in 28 encounters, and no-one really expects them to add to that total today. However, they've got a very decent pack and coach Pierre Berbizier would laugh and laugh and laugh if he could put one over his home nation France and their coach Bernard Laporte - Pierre isn't the spectacled one's biggest fan.

1300 GMT: Afternoon all, and welcome to the opening day of the 2007 Six Nations. First up, Italy host defending champions France, and we want your e-mails and texts in the run-up to the game.

Italy: De Marigny; Dallan, Canale, Mi Bergamasco, Masi; Scanavacca, Griffen; Perugini, Ongaro, Nieto, Dellape, Bortolami (capt), Sole, Ma Bergamasco, Parisse.
Replacements: Festuccia, Lo Cicero, Castrogiovanni, Mandelli, Troncon, Pez, Robertson.

France: Poitrenaud; Heymans, Fritz, Jauzion, Dominici; Skrela, Mignoni; Milloud, Ibanez (cap), De Villiers, Nallet, Thion, Betsen, Bonnaire, Chabal.
Replacements: Szarzewski, Marconnet, Pape, Harinordoquy, Yachvili, Beauxis, Clerc.

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