Italy struggled to cope with Chabal's power
Italy: (3) 3
France: (22) 39
Tries: Dominici, Heymans, Chabal 2, Jauzion
Cons: Skrela 4
Pens: Skrela, Beauxis
France opened the defence of their RBS Six Nations title with a crushing five-try win over a disappointing Italy at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome.
Italy had been thought capable of springing a shock, but the home side failed to convert chances into points.
Tries from Christophe Dominici, Cedric Heymans and Sebastien Chabal put France in a commanding 17-3 lead at the break.
It was more of the same in the second half, with Chabal crossing again before Yannick Jauzion added a fifth.
Italy's formidable pack had been talked up before the match as one which could push France all the way.
606 DEBATE: How impressive were France?
And Italy had chances early on - but a misdirected long-range penalty from Andrea Scanavacca set the tone as their good work in open play was frequently undone by mistakes at key times.
A promising early attack saw Mauro Bergamasco latch onto a Scanavacca chip ahead but the flanker was dragged down just short of the line.
The home team won a penalty for their efforts but Roland de Marigny's effort at goal was woefully wide.
France started to show some of the flair missing from their autumn displays with half-backs David Skrela and Pierre Mignoni impressing with ball in hand.
Dominici scored France's first try on 24 minutes
Skrela, given the chance to stake his claim in France's problem fly-half position, kicked his side into the lead but their first try came from an Italy mistake.
A run-around move broke down in midfield, and Raphael Ibanez hacked the loose ball on for Dominici to gather and outpace the cover defence.
The next try was a product of some old-fashioned forward play from Chabal, as he battered over the gain line before releasing quick ball.
A swift pass from Mignoni found Skrela, and the fly-half slipped the ball to Heymans in the blink of an eye to allow the winger to race down the tryline.
France's handsome lead should have been cut moments later though.
But hooker Fabio Ongaro butchered a two-on-one overlap, preferring to cut inside and take contact. To add insult to injury, Ongaro found himself turned over and France cleared their lines.
Ramiro Pez's penalty finally got Italy on the scoreboard on 37 minutes but there was time enough for Chabal to power through three tackles for his first score.
After the break, France soon showed they were in the mood to extend their lead.
Italy's Sergio Parisse got little change out of France's defence
A brilliant Skrela kick set up the position, and a few phases later the outstanding Chabal was taking a short pass from Mignoni to amble over for his second try.
Italy won and retained their fair share of possession but looked like a side desperately short of ideas, and a lack of precision in midfield saw France able to hack through on several occasions.
Andrea Masi had to pull off a tremendous tackle on Skrela after the fly-half ran onto a loose ball from an Italy mistake.
But the fifth try was not long in coming, with Jauzion able to cross after Skrela's cross-kick found its way to Clement Poitrenaud and the full-back cut inside before releasing the centre.
Italy continued to push with more than 17 minutes left to go, but they never looked in serious danger of crossing France's tryline.
Italy: De Marigny, Dallan, Canale, M. Bergamasco, Masi, Scanavacca, Griffen, Perugini, Ongaro, Nieto, Dellape, Bortolami, Sole, M. Bergamasco, Parisse.
Replacements: Festuccia, Lo Cicero, Castrogiovanni, Mandelli, Troncon, Pez, Robertson.
France: Poitrenaud, Heymans, Fritz, Jauzion, Dominici, Skrela, Mignoni, Milloud, Ibanez, De Villiers, Thion, Nallet, Betsen, Bonnaire, Chabal.
Replacements: Szarzewski, Marconnet, Pape, Harinordoquy, Yachvili, Beauxis, Clerc.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)