Italy vs. France: Winners and Losers from 2015 Six Nations Clash

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 15, 2015

Italy vs. France: Winners and Losers from 2015 Six Nations Clash

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    France's Six Nations hopes were given the slightest glimmer of hope on Sunday as Les Bleus powered to a 29-0 victory over Italy.

    A transformed Philippe Saint-Andre lineup took their kicking chances well and stood up to anything the Azzurri threw at them, but they are still struggling to find their rhythm in attack.

    Following such a dismaying defeat, Italy will take their share of lessons, but France would be wise to take notes too, as we break down the biggest winners and losers from this Week 4 encounter.

Winner: Les Bleus' Lifeline

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    Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    It's the most desperate of lifelines at this stage of the competition, but France's fourth-round win at least keeps alive even the slightest chance of winning this year's Six Nations title.

    Sitting two points behind England, Ireland and Wales, Saint-Andre's side would need to mount an astonishing assault on England next Saturday in order to pull off the almost impossible.

    The French would also need Scotland and Italy to claim wins over Ireland and Wales respectively, and it seems too unlikely that all three of the table's current top three will crumble.

Loser: Italian Incompetence

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    Although the 29-point score margin might suggest France gave an impressive account of their ability on Sunday, make no mistake about it—this was an Azzurri side at the worst they've performed so far this year.

    Sunday's fixture was riddled with mistakes from both sides, but it was the hosts who made the more criminal offences both in and out of possession, a nightmare follow-up to the win over Scotland.

    Tommaso Allan missed his two kicking attempts from the tee, both scrums were made to look amateur in an odd shuffling of set-piece dominance, and the Italian penalty count soared far above what was manageable.

    Had the last few minutes panned out differently at Murrayfield last time out, Italy would still be without a point and Jacques Brunel's tenure would be ending on a far more negative note.

Winner: England and Ireland's Points Difference

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    A last-minute try from substitute Mathieu Bastareaud gave France a pivotal boost in their campaign, but this was still a fixture in which Saint-Andre's side should rue not having notched more points.

    With a points difference of plus-22, the French have effectively left their title bid in enemy hands, sitting 11 and 15 points behind Ireland and England respectively.

    Not allowing Italy a single point in their own backyard is encouraging in itself, but France displayed an inability to tuck away a plethora of try chances that should have been converted.

    If silverware didn't look unlikely enough, Saint-Andre will assuredly blame any disadvantage in points difference on his own side not showing a vicious enough edge in attack, with Ireland and England benefitting hugely.

Loser: French World Cup Aspirations

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    Looking beyond this tournament, the rest of France's 2015 prospects look dim. A win against Italy might gloss over some current deficiencies, but the holes in this side are simply too grand to repair in time for any sort of World Cup assault.

    Coincidentally, Italy will be one of the teams Les Bleus face in Pool D of the World Cup later this year, along with Ireland, Romania and Canada.

    With Joe Schmidt's side currently in another class to the rest of that bunch, France look to be contending for second place, and one wouldn't even dub that finish assured based on this performance.

Winner: Scott Spedding Justifies Selection

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    It's not all doom and gloom for the French, however, and in spite of their inadequacies, Scott Spedding finally came back into Saint-Andre's XV on Sunday to give an impressive performance amid some lacklustre displays.

    Only Loann Goujon and Noa Nakaitaci registered more carrying metres than the full-back's 89, and it was an inspired piece of play from the Bayonne recruit that opened up space for Yoann Maestri's 45th-minute try.

    It was something of a surprise to see Brice Dulin not make it into France's squad for the remaining two clashes after dotting down against Wales in Week 3, but Spedding showed just what strong options his coach possesses at No. 15.

    Making two clean breaks and beating three defenders, the barnstorming Spedding even slotted a kick during Camille Lopez's injury and did enough to tie down his place ahead of the trip to Twickenham.

    All statistics courtesy of ESPN Scrum.

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