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Michalak guides France to opening victory but Huget injury a real concern

It was far from a thriller but France had enough firepower to comfortably prevail.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

France 32

Italy 10

FREDERIC MICHALAK ORCHESTRATED France’s 32-10 win over Italy in their opening World Cup match at Twickenham on Saturday.

Michalak set up the first try of the match for prop Rabah Slimani and the veteran fly-half also kicked 19 points.

Replacement prop Nicolas Mas scored France’s only other try 11 minutes from time. That left them two tries short of a bonus point and already behind Pool D rivals Ireland.

Italy were without talismanic captain Sergio Parisse with the No 8, who plays for Paris-based Stade Francais, kept out by a leg injury sustained in a warm-up match against Wales.

Italy were thrashed 29-0 by France in this season’s Six Nations.

However, there were few moments of inspiration from either side in a first half which ended with France 15-3 in front, all the points coming from penalties.

France’s strong scrummage against a powerful Italian pack led to a fourth-minute penalty — awarded by South African referee Craig Joubert.

However, Michalak’s 38-metre effort came back off the post before he made it 3-0 in the seventh minute.

France, in their change strip of red, appeared to have scored a try only, for the second day in a row at Twickenham, to be chalked off as a result of controversy involving the use of the television match official.

Yoann Huget his helped up by Mathieu Bastareaud, Yoann Maestri  and Louis Picamoles after he got injured Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A loose pass rebounded off Italy’s Leonardo Sarto and was gathered by France wing Noa Nakaitaci.

Joubert awarded the try and France were just about to take the conversion when the official looked at the giant screen to see that Nakaitaci had knocked on.

Michalak’s ensuing penalty was some consolation for France and Italy fly-half Tommasso Allan then pulled a kickable penalty wide.

Italy lost experienced centre Andrew Masi with an Achilles injury.

Despite boasting a front row including veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni, an Italian scrum infringement led to a France penalty only for Michalak to again hit the left post.

A stray Italian hand in the ruck gave Michalak another penalty chance and, from 35 metres, this one sailed between the posts to make it 9-0, with French No 8 Louis Picamoles doing much good work in the loose.

Allan eventually opened Italy’s account with a 33rd-minute penalty

Another Italian scrum collapse gave France a penalty just inside their own half and full-back Scott Spedding, the long-range kick specialist, landed a superb effort to to make it 12-3.

Michalak kicked his side into a 12-point lead and his fifth successful penalty nudged France 18-3 in front early in the second half.

France finally scored their first try in the 44th minute.

Nakaitaci’s burst down the touchline saw him release Guilhem Guirado, with the hooker hauled down by the posts.

The ball was recycled and Michalak’s kick from five metres out was regathered by Slimani for the front row’s first Test try.

Michalak converted and France were well clear at 25-3.

Rabah Slimani scores his sides opening try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Italy hit back with a 52nd-minute try when, after Sarto went close, a quick ball allowed Italy wing Giovanbattista Venditti to race over on the right.

Allan converted and France’s lead had been cut to 25-10.

France then saw wing Yoann Huget, visibly in pain, limp off with what appeared to be a severe hamstring injury.

It needed a typically hard-charging run from powerful France centre Mathieu Bastareaud to set up the position from which Mas placed the ball at the base of the post for the second try.

- © AFP, 2015 

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