Rugby

Six Nations Wrap: ‘More negatives than positives’ as France scrape past Italy, Gatland fumes over Welsh discipline

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France have survived a huge scare as they started their Six Nations campaign with a nerve-racking 29-24 away victory over Italy.

The defending champions were 24-22 down going into the last 15 minutes in Rome on Sunday before replacement flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert scored the decisive try.

Thibaud Flament, Ethan Dumortier and Thomas Ramos, who kicked the other points, had touched down in the first half.

But Italy, who made the most of France’s poor discipline, responded with Ange Capuozzo’s try, a penalty try and points from the boot of Tommaso Allan.

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 05: Ethan Dumortier of France celebrates the victory at the end of the Six Nations Rugby match between Italy and France at Stadio Olimpico on February 05, 2023 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images)

France’s Ethan Dumortier celebrates the victory in the Six Nations over Italy. (Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images)

The Azzurri showcased their newly found flair and self-confidence following their historic November triumph over the Wallabies but they came up just short as Les Bleus claimed their 14th Test victory in a row.

France, who had 18 penalties against them, travel to Ireland next Saturday for a blockbuster between the world’s top two teams while Italy take on England at Twickenham next Sunday.

“We were against one of the top teams in the world. There are regrets but also a lot of pride,” said Italy fullback Capuozzo, who scored his sixth try in eight international appearances.

France were more relieved than proud. “We’re going to try and keep the positives from this test but obviously there were more negatives than positives,” said captain, man of the match Antoine Dupont.

It all started well for Fabien Galthie’s visitors but things began to unravel before the interval and it took the huge depth of their bench to finally prevail at the Stadio Olimpico.

Their aggressive defence made the difference early on as Flament charged down a kick from Stephen Varney before scoring between s.

Italy made it to the board with Allan’s first penalty but the Azzurri were on the brink. 

Shortly after Charles Ollivon had a try ruled out for a knock-on, Ramos picked up the ball that Damian Penaud and Capuozzo were competing for following Romain Ntamack’s cross-field kick to touch down and give the visitors a nine-point lead.

Allan slashed it to six with another penalty as France paid for their ill-discipline — a shortcoming they failed to correct after the break.

But another cross-field kick from Ntamack was collected by Dumortier, who finished his run between s to celebrate his maiden cap with a try.

Italy, however, hit back through Capuozzo, who dived for the corner after evading Gregory Alldritt’s tackle, before Allan reduced the arrears to five points with another penalty kick.

Following an early penalty for France, Italy were awarded a penalty try and Ollivon was sin-binned for collapsing the maul.

With an extra man on the field and a one-point deficit, the hosts were fired up and they took the lead just before Ollivon returned to the field with Allan’s fourth penalty.

Galthie’s changes, however, quickly paid off as Jalibert dived over after being set up by fellow replacement Romain Taofifenua to restore France’s lead for good.

Gatland laments poor discipline behind Wales defeat

Warren Gatland has lamented “discipline and soft penalties” as key factors behind Wales’ heaviest Six Nations home defeat for 22 years.

Gatland’s team will head to Edinburgh next weekend for an appointment with resurgent Scotland, knowing that their tournament hopes and ambitions are already under intense scrutiny.

A 34-10 loss to title favourites Ireland at the Principality Stadium on Saturday shredded any fairytale script that might have accompanied Gatland’s return for his second stint as Wales head coach.

It ended up being Wales’ biggest Six Nations reversal in Cardiff since Ireland crushed them 36-6 in 2001.

And while Wales have won on six of their last seven visits to Murrayfield, Scotland’s memorable Calcutta Cup triumph against England has increased their degree of difficulty.

“The discipline and soft penalties cost us,” Gatland said.

“I think there were about 16 penalties, which just isn’t good enough. You need to get that down to under 10 in international rugby.”

Wales conceded 27 points during the first 27 minutes, such was Ireland’s domination amid thumping confirmation of their current status as the world’s top team.

And while Wales’ second-half display showed vast improvement – along with fine displays by young prospects Rio Dyer, Joe Hawkins and Jac Morgan – the damage had already been done.

Gatland added: “We created a number of chances but we weren’t clinical enough to finish them.”

At the end of the game, I said in my head that I actually wasn’t that disappointed with our performance. In the past, we’ve been able to work hard and fix things.”

Gatland will make at least one change for the Scotland clash, with lock Alun Wyn Jones ruled out after failing a head injury assessment.

Exeter’s Dafydd Jenkins is likely to be handed a first Test start as his replacement.

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