The XV of France overcame Italy in Rome (29-24), but it was hard.
Sanctioned 18 times by the referee, the Blues, winners of the Grand Slam last year, were hardly reassured.
Especially since their next opponent, Ireland, the first nation in the World Rugby rankings, impressed him on Saturday in Cardiff against Wales (34-10).
In search of a double after the Grand Slam won in 2022, and as "their" World Cup looms in the fall (September 8-October 28), we cannot say that the French have convinced at the Stadio Olimpico .
This lackluster success nevertheless allowed Fabien Galthié's men to chain a fourteenth victory in a row, stretching an unprecedented series in the history of French rugby, and a thirteenth victory in a row against Italy.
In the elite of world rugby, the record for consecutive victories (18) is held jointly by New Zealand (between August 2015 and November 2016) and England (between October 2015 and March 2017).
More than 4 victories and the Blues would therefore equal a world record.
It would therefore be necessary for Galtier's men to achieve a second consecutive Grand Slam to achieve this.
Not so simple when you know that the next match will be played against Ireland in Dublin.
The XV of Clover, best nation in the world,
Read alsoSix Nations Tournament: the notes of the XV of France, victorious in Italy (24-29)
The Blues will therefore have to do much better to hope to prolong their series of invincibility.
Feverishness, hand faults, offside… The French were punished too much this Saturday, the referee of the meeting even rewarding Italy with a penalty try following yet another fault on the ground by the Blues.
Italy, in the wake of a year 2022 marked by two great victories, against Cardiff in the Tournament last spring (22-21) and over Australia (28-27) in the fall, has not not undeserved, scoring a try by the back Ange Capuozzo and recovering the defensive bonus point.
The unruly French
If the Blues managed to flatten three times, opening their counter by Thibaud Flament on interception from the 5th minute, the Italians, taking advantage of French indiscipline (nine penalties conceded against only two on the transalpine side), stuck to the score thanks to the foot from Tommaso Allan and a try from the inevitable Capuozzo.
Not everything is to be thrown away on the French side either, with in particular a powerful and precise footwork from Romain Ntamack, at the origin of the second and third tries, concretized respectively by the back Thomas Ramos and the Lyon winger Ethan Dumortier , who thus signs his first try for his first selection (6-19, 26th).
In just over 25 minutes, the French had already scored three tries.
But they nevertheless continued to be penalized and on a new fault of the Blues, Allan chooses this time the penaltouch.
He took it well since it was at this time that Capuozzo, following a carried ball, took the closed side to flatten in a corner (11-19, 32nd) his sixth international try in eight selections.
While the siren has already whistled, the French are penalized again (14-19), and Dupont is summoned by Mr. Carley: "It's the last", warns the referee before the two teams return to the locker room .
From the start of the second period, on a penalty touch in the French five meters, while the Italians stormed the line, Charles Ollivon made a mistake and logically received a yellow card, accompanied by a penalty try , as promised by the referee: and here is Italy at one point (21-22, 51st).
While France is outnumbered, and after a missed penalty by Ramos, Italy takes the lead for the first time following yet another penalty, thanks to the foot of the metronome Tommaso Allan (24-22 at the 62nd).
While concern begins to close the faces on the French bench, Matthieu Jalibert, barely entering the meadow to replace Ntamack, manages to flatten in force, giving a definitive advantage to the French (24-29, 69th).