Fickou (l), Dupont and Thomas (r) celebrate. Dave Winter/INPHO
French Evolution

Dupont shines as France open campaign with easy win over Italy

Les Bleus open up the championship with a seven try victory over Italy in Rome.

Italy 10

France 50

IF THERE WAS anyone still out there who doubted whether Antoine Dupont was the best player in the world, well you aren’t likely to hear too much from them this weekend.

And if there is anyone out there who also doubt whether Fabien Galthie’s France are the real deal, then perhaps it is best they stay quiet, too.

Notwithstanding Italy’s appalling attempt to defend their line, there is no getting away from the fact that Galthie’s maturing team have evolved into an impressive force. Their pack brings grunt, their backs class.

No one has more of that than Dupont, their bulky little scrum-half, who scored a fine try here in the second half, after he had a hand, or foot, in four other scores. Keeping him company on the scoreboard were Teddy Thomas (two), Brice Dulin, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou and Dylan Cretin.

On the back of this result, questions again have to be asked about Italy’s presence in this tournament. Without a Six Nations win since 2015, they were absolutely terrible in defence, marked absent for Fickou’s try, when Dupont’s left-footed kick was easily touched down by the France centre, with the Italian full-back, Jacopo Trulla, gone AWOL.

To their credit, Italy did some things well, winning 57 per cent of possession in the first half, unfortunate to have a try disallowed in this period when Stephen Varney sold a couple of dummies, bought for a cheap price by the France defence, before the little scrum half delivered a forward pass to Montanna Ioane.

If that was a setback, then a brighter moment came after the break when Luca Sperandio profited from a turnover to break down the right wing, whereupon he sensed the chance to try something outrageous, chipping ahead, collecting his own kick, prior to touching down.

In Varney and Garbisi, Italy have a pair of decent half-backs. But in Dupont and Mathieu Jalibert, the French had better ones.

The result was never in doubt, not after France started so confidently, scoring after just five minutes, when a quick tap penalty saw Thomas slalom his way through a forest of Italian defenders, reaching the Italy 22, before he fed Jalibert. Following another two phases, Cretin drove over the line, Jalibert converting.

The tone was set. After Jalibert and Garbisi exchanged penalties, France had a 10-3 lead which became 17-3 on 27 minutes when Dupont spotted the space in behind the Italian line which Fickou exploited.

The tries kept coming, the third arriving before half-time when Dupont collected his own kick and had the awareness to offload in the tackle, Vincent following up to get the scoreboard moving again.

The only time it stopped was at half-time.

After the break the scores kept coming, Dulin, the France full back scoring on 47 minutes, following a kick ahead by Villere; Dupont starting and then finishing a move on 54 minutes, Thomas the supplier of the final pass; before Thomas scored twice on 57 and 73 minutes.

That brought the score up to 50. This was a statement of intent, not just a rugby result.

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