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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 March 2008, 16:38 GMT
France 25-13 Italy
By James Standley

France winger Aurelien Rougerie goes on the charge
Rougerie was a threat for France every time he had the ball

France (13) 25
Tries: Floch, Jauzion, Rougerie
Cons: Yachvili 2
Pens: Yachvili 2

Italy (6) 13
Tries: Castrogiovanni
Cons: Marcato
Pens: Marcato 2

France saw off Italy to keep their Six Nations title hopes alive, but their margin of victory keeps Wales in pole position for next weekend's decider.

Marc Lievremont's side will need to beat Wales by a minimum of 20 points in Cardiff to claim the title.

Full-back Anthony Floch's try helped France to a 13-6 half-time lead.

Yannick Jauzion extended France's lead before Martin Castrogiovanni responded for Italy, but Aurelien Rougerie made the game safe for France.

Wales will now go into the final-day showdown against France two points clear at the top of the table and with a superior points difference.

When new coach Lievremont took charge following the World Cup he decided a French revolution was the way ahead.

He had made a host of changes for each game so far during the 2008 championship and once again rolled the dice, radically altering the side which lost last time out against England.

606: DEBATE
TB

There were three new caps, including two up front, and with Italy's strength undoubtedly their grizzled pack it looked as though France would try to expose their European neighbours out wide.

However, far from the backs posing the initial threat it was the forwards who made the first incisions.

France thought they had scored through captain Lionel Nallet inside the first five minutes but he was penalised for incorrectly taking a quick penalty.

However, after 13 minutes debutant flanker Ibrahim Diarra soared at a line-out and the French eight set up a rumbling maul that drove 25 yards into the heart of the Italian defence.

When the ball came back Francois Trinh-Duc produced a pin-point chip to the corner and 6ft 4in winger Julien Malzieu caught and fed inside in one movement to full-back Floch, who dived over to claim his first international try.

Dimitri Yachvili converted but Italy cut the gap through an Andrea Marcato penalty after France number eight Louis Picamoles infringed at a ruck.

Anthony Floch scored the first try for France in Paris on Sunday
Anthony Floch scored the first try for France in Paris on Sunday

A superb break down the touchline by hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini nearly led to an Italian score but the try-scoring pass inside was spilled by Gonzalo Canale.

Things rapidly went from bad to worse for Canale as he was penalised for taking out Jauzion as the French centre chased a chip ahead.

Yachvili drilled the easy penalty between the posts and a further penalty apiece from Marcato and Yachvili meant it was 13-6 to France at the break.

Play was very scrappy for the first 10 minutes of the second half but France eventually managed to put together a series of phases and Jauzion read Yachvili's chip from the base of a ruck beautifully to collect and dot down untouched.

But Italy hit back immediately as Leicester prop Castrogiovanni was driven over after the visitors kicked a penalty into the corner.

Marcato succeeded where Yachvili had just failed, slotting the conversion to make it 18-13, and with quarter of the game to play the visitors were right back in it.

With the home crowd becoming increasingly frustrated France tried to raise their game.

They came desperately close to scoring through Rougerie just before the hour mark, only for him to be denied by a superb Mirco Bergamasco tackle.

But five minutes later Damien Traille's half-break set up Rougerie to stroll over for a well-worked try, converted by Yachvili, and the rest of the game largely belonged to France.

They had to repel one Italian attack but could not add any more points of their own and their failure to really put the visitors to the sword means Wales look certain to add the 2008 title to their triumph in 2005.

  • Watch the match in full on BBC iPlayer for seven days from Sunday (UK users only)


    France: Floch; Rougerie, David, Jauzion, Malzieu, Trinh-Duc; Yachvili, Barcella, Szarzewski, Mas, Nallet, Thion, Diarra, Ouedraogo, Picamoles.
    Replacements: Traille for David (60), Tomas for Yachvili (71), Guirado for Szarzewski (63), Poux for Mas (62), Mela for Thion (68), Bonnaire for Diarra (50).
    Not Used: Clerc.

    Italy: Marcato; Robertson, Canale, Bergamasco, Galon; Masi, Picone; Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Del Fava, Bortolami, Sole, Zanni, Parisse.
    Replacements: Patrizio for Canale (75), Travagli for Picone (69), Perugini for Lo Cicero (56), Ongaro for Ghiraldini (56), Nieto for Castrogiovanni (59).
    Not Used: Erasmus, Sgarbi.

    Att: 79,000

    Ref: Alan Lewis (Ireland).



    SEE ALSO
    France v Italy as it happened
    09 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
    Six Nations photos
    08 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
    France pick three more debutants
    05 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
    Wales 47-8 Italy
    23 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
    France 13-24 England
    23 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union


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