|France: (31) 60|
|Tries: Penaud 2, Bielle-Biarrey, Ramos, Jalibert, Mauvaka, Moefana 2 Pens: Ramos, Jaminet Cons: Ramos 6, Jaminet|
|Italy: (0) 7|
|Tries: Zuliani; Cons: Allan|
France cruised to top spot in Pool A at the World Cup as they beat Italy 60-7.
The hosts faced elimination if they had lost but put any nerves to bed in Lyon with 31 unanswered points in the first half, going on to score eight tries for a bonus-point victory.
France advance to the quarter-finals unbeaten and ahead of New Zealand in the group stage rankings.
They will face the runners-up from Pool B – South Africa, Ireland or Scotland – on 15 October.
“Four games, four wins,” said France captain Charles Ollivon. “This was an elimination match for us, we had no right to make mistakes.
“We wanted to play with intensity and we did, and we kept it up for 80 minutes. It’s very positive and sets us up for the next stage. We really want to be there.”
The tone was set inside two minutes when France proved too strong and quick for Italy to work the ball through the hands out to the left wing where Damian Penaud scored his first of two tries.
Full back Thomas Ramos was also in unstoppable form with the boot, converting that try before slotting a penalty from halfway.
Louis Bielle-Biarrey again got the nod over Gabin Villiere on the left wing and showed why by collecting a perfect box kick from Ramos before jinking around three men to touch down on 13 minutes.
Ramos himself scored the third try after running from deep to finish an excellent cross-field move, and the bonus point was secured before half-time when Penaud scored his second try, set up by a brilliant kick to the right wing under pressure by Matthieu Jalibert.
Jalibert continued the scoring after half-time, selling the Italian defence with a dummied pass before leaving white shirts trailing on the floor as he touched over, while try number six came from hooker Peato Mauvaka following a line-out.
Replacement back Yoram Moefana brought up the half century and scored the final two tries, both after superb moves from France that crossed the width of the pitch, while Manuel Zuliani crossed for Italy whose sole comfort was avoiding a shutout.
“You just need to listen to the support they [France] have got,” said Italy head coach Kieran Crowley. “They were too good.”
How did France do without Dupont?
Maxime Lucu started at scrum-half for France in place of injured captain Antoine Dupont, who suffered a broken cheekbone during their win over Namibia two weeks ago.
Dupont is due to meet a specialist on Monday to see if his injury has healed enough for him to be available for France’s quarter-final.
While they will face far tougher tests in the knockouts than an Italy side which looked disillusioned following their 96-17 hammering by the All Blacks, this performance indicated France will be a danger regardless of whether their skipper returns.
“We’ve been together for four years now. It’s pretty easy to know where we all are and how we’re set up on the pitch,” added Ollivon.
“That gives us a sense of direction when the going gets tough, and that can make all the difference.”
Lucu played well at number nine, although his most notable intervention came when Italy thought they had scored through prop Simone Ferrari before the interval.
Replays showed Ferrari had made a dangerous tackle on Lucu in the build-up, and the try was disallowed.
Any side with Penaud in their team will be dangerous. The winger moved ahead of Vincent Clerc as France’s second highest try scorer, with 35.
Only the great Serge Blanco on 38 has scored more – a record Penaud will surely break, possibly at this tournament.
Third again for disappointing Italy
It is a sad end to the tournament for Italy, who come third in their World Cup pool for the sixth consecutive time and the ninth time in 10 tournaments.
This was their record defeat to France, particularly disappointing given their hammering from New Zealand last week – and the fact they ran the French so close in the Six Nations, where they suffered a narrow 29-24 loss.
“We gave away a lot of penalties early on and then we just didn’t get any momentum because our breakdown work wasn’t good enough,” said Crowley. “The interpretation sometimes left a bit to be desired but that’s the way it was.”They were just too physical, too powerful for us.”
France: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Bielle-Biarrey; Jalibert, Lucu; Baille, Mauvaka, Atonio; Woki, Flament; Jelonch, Ollivon, Alldritt
Replacements: Jaminet for Ramos (61), Falatea-Moefana for Fickou (62), Couilloud for Lucu (55),Wardi for Baille (55), Bourgarit for Mauvaka (55), Aldegheri for Atonio (45), Taofifenua for Flament (45), Cros for Ollivon (55).
Italy: Capuozzo; Bruno, Brex, Garbisi, Ioane; Allan, Varney; Ferrari, Faiva, Ceccarelli; Cannone, Ruzza; Negri, Lamaro, Cannone
Replacements: Morisi for Bruno (65), Fusco for Varney (44), Zani for Ferrari (62), Manfredi for Faiva (62), Riccioni for Ceccarelli (55), Sisi for N. Cannone (57), Zuliani for Lamaro (44).
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
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