France vs. Italy: Winners and Losers from 2016 RBS 6 Nations Clash
France overcame Italy 23-21 in the opening fixture in the 2016 RBS Six Nations despite a lacklustre performance from Les Bleus at the Stade de France.
Italy were the better side for much of the match but were the losers on the day. Did anyone from France make it into this list as a victor?
Let's see who put in a winner’s performance and who had a mixed game in Paris.
Winners and Losers: Guy Noves and French Flair
Guy Noves, the new France coach, got his reign underway with an unconvincing win, but a win nonetheless. When he took over, Noves immediately stated his intention to restore French flair. But despite this policy and an expectant Stade de France, France only played fluid rugby in spurts.
France did decide to play from deep in their own 22, a throwback to the glory days of Franco invention from the 1990s.
They constantly looked to offload, and Damien Chouly’s try had the hallmarks of Guy Noves’ approach. Turning down a simple three points, Gael Fickou, who will know Noves’ methods well from their time together at Toulouse, tapped and went, catching Italy off their guard.
Is French flair back, or will such a narrow win at home against Italy mean Les Bleus revert to the turgid style they displayed under Philippe Saint-Andre?
Winner: Attacking Italian Backs
Carlos Canna at fly-half and Michele Campagnaro in the centre gave Italy a two-pronged attacking threat in midfield that they have never before enjoyed.
Campagnaro made several breaks in an excellent first-half display and was within inches of scoring a try at the end of the first 40.
Canna had a disappointing performance from the kicking tee but slotted a tidy drop goal, scored a try and kept the French defence focused on him, giving more time and space for Campagnaro.
Could this signal a change of philosophy from the traditionally forward-orientated Italians?
Winner: Jules Plisson
Jules Plisson, the French No. 10, makes this list as a winner for a brilliant, high-pressure penalty from the halfway line that gave Les Bleus victory.
Plisson was completely unnerved, sweetly striking the ball between the Italian posts.
In so doing, Plisson spared the blushes of his team and Guy Noves with a thumping 54-metre effort.
Winner and Loser: Sergio Parisse
Sergio Parisse could easily have come out of this game as a winner, but the talismanic No. 8 ended the game as a loser for Italy.
Parisse made numerous carries for the Azzurri, scored a try and was crucial for the Canna score while showing great leadership throughout to almost guide his charges to a first win in Paris.
However, disaster struck for the captain in the final five minutes of the match. He conceded the controversial penalty from which Plisson won the game for France. Referee JP Doyle could have given Italy the penalty for a high tackle on Parisse.
Then, in the final moments of the match, Parisse took it upon himself to slot what would have been the winning drop-goal. But although Parisse’s big-game nerve is to be lauded, it was not the right decision for the No. 8 to take such a high-pressure kick.
Winner and Loser: The 2016 RBS Six Nations
The Six Nations was a winner today, as Italy exceeded expectations and demonstrated that they will be competitive in this year’s championship.
France, meanwhile, were woefully below par. The Six Nations needs a strong France to produce classic matches and a tight battle for the title. On this evidence, that won’t happen in 2016.