Six Nations 2016: France 23-21 Italy

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Highlights: France 23-21 Italy
RBS Six Nations
France (10) 23
Tries: Vakatawa, Chouly, Bonneval Con: Plisson Pens: Plisson 2
Italy (8) 21
Tries: Parisse, Canna Con: Canna Pens: Canna, Haimona Drop-goal: Canna

France edged to an unconvincing win over Italy to make a successful start to their Six Nations campaign.

In a tight first half Virimi Vakatawa and Damien Chouly crossed for France, but a Carlo Canna drop-goal and Sergio Parisse's try kept Italy in touch.

Canna finished off a burst by Parisse to put the visitors in the ascendancy.

France retook the initiative with Hugo Bonneval's score, but they still needed a late penalty from Jules Plisson to hand a win to new coach Guy Noves.

France fans
France were playing at home for the first time since beating Scotland in a pre-World Cup match in September

This was first sporting event held at the Stade de France since the attacks on Paris in November last year.

Former Toulouse boss Noves, 62, had promised to build a more entertaining French side from the one that went out in the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup and finished a disappointing fourth in the 2015 Six Nations.

There was certainly a sense of adventure about Noves's side, personified by powerful sevens international Vakatawa who showed guile and fleet of foot on the wing to score the opening try.

Gael Fickou's quick-tap penalty opened the door for Chouly to cross for their second and Jonathan Danty drew in defenders expertly to release Bonneval for the third, but there remained a fragility to the home side.

Parisse so nearly the match winner

Sergio Parisse tackles
Sergio Parisse made the furthest metres, most carries and most turnovers for Italy

Italy, inspired by their captain Parisse, almost took full advantage with a structured, organised performance, in which they won seven turnovers to France's three.

Parisse, who plays his club rugby in Paris with Stade Francais, has for so long been Italy's talisman and the number eight stepped even closer to legendary status for his country with this all-action performance.

The 32-year-old touched down from a catch and drive in the first half and came agonisingly close to finishing off a barnstorming burst after the break, before Canna applied the finishing touch regardless.

In fact, he almost snatched it at the death with an audacious drop-goal attempt that drifted wide, but in the end it was Plisson's monster penalty from near the halfway line that ended up being the difference maker.

Alexandre Flanquart and Jules Plisson
Jules Plisson's kicking earned him an arm round the shoulder from France's 6ft 8in lock Alexandre Flanquart

Teams

France: Medard; Bonneval, Fickou, Danty, Vakatawa; Plisson, Bezy; Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani, Jedrasiak, Maestri, Lauret, Chouly, Picamoles.

Replacements: Doussain for Medard (77), Mermoz for Fickou (56), Atonio for Ben Arous (50), Poirot for Slimani (50), Flanquart for Jedrasiak (72).

Not used: Chat, Camara, Machenaud.

Italy: Odiete; L. Sarto, Campagnaro, Garcia, Bellini; Canna, Gori; Lovotti, Gega, Cittadini, Biagi, Fuser, Minto, Zanni, Parisse.

Replacements: McLean for Odiete (55), Haimona for Garcia (70), Palazzani for Canna (77), Zanusso for Lovotti (65), Giazzon for Gega (56), Castrogiovanni for Cittadini (65), Bernabo for Biagi (43), van Schalkwyk for Zanni (66).

Referee: JP Doyle (England)

Match stats
FranceItaly
Data provided by Accenture
48%Possession52%
46%Territory54%
4 (1)Scrums won (lost)7 (1)
11 (1)Line-outs won (lost)13 (2)
9Pens conceded12
74 (3)Rucks/mauls won (lost)73 (3)
28Kicks from hand25
98 (13)Tackles made (missed)109 (17)
398Metres made420
22Offloads11
5Line breaks5

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