PARIS (Reuters) - France got their rugby World Cup preparations back on track by overpowering Italy, scoring seven tries in a flamboyant and sometimes chaotic 47-19 win at the Stade de France on Friday.
The home side, in their final warm-up match before the tournament in Japan, played a bold, expansive game and, despite being reduced temporarily to 13 players midway through the first half, had too much pace and power for a stubborn yet outclassed Italian side.
The French, whose previous two games were back-to-back encounters against Scotland - a home win followed by an away defeat - never looked back after winger Yoann Huget went over in the third minute after a superb break by centre Wesley Fofana.
France captain Jefferson Poirot stressed the positives, saying: “I think we reached our objectives. We still have things to do but I think we can take some spirit from this - we showed some good things.
“When we had two players off the field, we still managed to stay ahead.”
Italy, desperate to find some form, responded well before a chaotic six-minute period of play produced two tries and three yellow cards.
France lost No.8 Louis Picamoles for infringing at a ruck after 18 minutes, which allowed Italy winger Mattia Bellini to cross after a quick penalty tap by Sergio Parisse, playing in his 140th international.
France’s Rabah Slimani was next in the sin bin only for Italy to lose a man of their own when Bellini impeded Huget during a kick-and-chase towards the Italian try line.
That also produced a penalty try and France reached the break 19-7 up after scoring from a driving maul.
They eased away in the second period, playing open rugby without fully convincing as they added four more tries, the pick of them by scrumhalf Antoine Dupont who skipped through a series of tackles after stealing down the blindside.
Italy’s high-point came when England-born flanker Jake Polledri powered over after regathering an attempted chip over the French defence. Bellini, meanwhile, added his second and his side’s third try in the closing stages.
Friday’s result gave France their eighth win in a row over the Italians.
Connor O’Shea’s team, who complete their World Cup preparations by taking on England in Newcastle next Friday, have now lost nine of their last 10 internationals, the win coming against World Cup minnows Russia.
The Rugby World Cup begins on Sept. 20, with hosts Japan taking on Russia.
France are in World Cup Pool C along with England, Argentina, the USA and Tonga. Italy are in Pool B with New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia and Canada.
Reporting by Antony Lawrence; editing by Ken Ferris