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Italy shock 14-man France

MATCH REPORT: Italy dealt France’s Six Nations prospects a mortal blow in their Round Three encounter in Lille on Sunday.

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France, reduced to 14 men for the entire second half, was held to a 13-all draw on home soil by an Azzurri that started slowly but worked their way into the game in the second half.

Following on their first-round loss to Ireland, this result leaves Les Bleus with virtually no chance of catching the runaway leaders from the Emerald Isle.

Italy flyhalf Paolo Garbisi had a chance to win the game for his team with a 40-metre, angled penalty on the stroke of full-time.

However, his attempt bounced off the upright – ending the match in a draw.

The big turning point came on the stroke of half-time, when Jonathan Danty was sin-binned for a head-on-head collision with an opponent – the ‘bunker review’ ruling it is an incident that had met the red card threshold.

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Italy were trailing 6-13 with just 10 minutes left when Ange Capuozzo went over for a try, converted by Garbisi.

Garbisi was then handed the chance to claim Italy’s first win over France in more than a decade, and a first in the Six Nations on French soil.

However, his tough-looking effort came back off the upright and the Italians had to settle for a share of the spoils against a relieved France.

“It was gutting to see that hit the post, but I don’t think that take away from the performance that the boys put in there,” Italy No.8 Ross Vintcent said.

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The result means France’s hangover from a failed home World Cup continues before a trip to Wales in a fortnight’s time with their Six Nations title hopes over.

“This is a painful moment for us,” admitted Galthié.

The French had been forced to a late change with wing Matthis Lebel replacing Louis Bielle-Biarrey 24 hours before kick-off after he suffered a neck injury.

Galthié handed 145kg 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi his first Test start and kept faith with his under-fire half-backs Maxime Lucu and Matthieu Jalibert and out-of-form centres Gael Fickou and Danty.

Italy’s former Les Bleus attack coach Gonzalo Quesada made six changes from February 11’s 0-36 loss to tournament favourites Ireland and named five players among his backs based in the French Top 14.

Lebel’s first responsibility in Test rugby since November 2022 was to clean up a sloppy Jalibert pass after just 36 seconds.

The hosts controlled territory early on and were rewarded with the game’s opening try after seven minutes for flanker Charles Ollivon, standing in as captain for the injured Gregory Alldritt.

Ollivon’s 16th Test try sent the 50,000-capacity crowd into a frenzy.

Les Bleus were on the front foot and fullback Thomas Ramos added to his earlier conversion with a penalty to make it 10-0 after Tuilaigi’s soft hands, unusual for such a big man, put Jalibert into space.

Italy’s first incursion into the opposition 22m came at the end of an open first quarter of an hour but Fickou and Danty combined for a turnover and Jalibert cleared French lines.

Galthié’s side continued to dominate the game and territory until just before the break but the Italy defence, with impressive tackles from winger Tommaso Menoncello and Vintcent on Jalibert and Danty, forcing the France fly-half off, kept them at bay

Danty failed revenge

With two minutes played over the clock Danty attempted some revenge with a hit on centre Juan Ignacio Brex but his tackle was deemed high and was shown a yellow card, pending a decision from the television match official.

Italy’s scrumhalf Martin Page-Relo then cut the deficit to 3-10 with a long-range penalty.

Moments before Italy kicked off the second half Danty’s yellow card was upgraded to a red leaving France’s backline impacted even further after Jalibert’s substitution, with Yoram Moefana coming on.

Danty’s absence failed to dampen France’s control and Ramos, filling in for Jalibert at flyhalf, restored the 10-point lead after 42 minutes with Alldritt carrying on the tee for the Toulouse playmaker.

The game turned sloppy before 23-year-old Garbisi kicked a penalty to bring his side within a converted try of the hosts with 20 minutes to play.

Ollivon was replaced with a quarter of an hour left with hooker Julien Marchand taking over the captain’s armband before Capuozzo quietened the Lille crowd with a finish in the corner from a subtle Leonardo Marin assist.

The tough conversion was slotted by Garbisi with less than 10 minutes to go to take the score level 13-all and set up the dramatic finale.

The scorers

For France
Try: Ollivon
Con: Ramos
Pens: Ramos 2

For Italy
Try: Capuozzo
Con: Garbisi
Pens: Page-Relo, Garbisi

Red card: Jonathan Danty (France, 40 – foul play, head-to-head collision)

Teams:

France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu; 8 François Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Paul Boudehent, 5 Posolo Tuilagi, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Esteban Abadie, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Yoram Moefana

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Tommaso Menoncello, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Federico Mori, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Martin Page-Relo; 8 Ross Vintcent, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Riccardo Favretto, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Andrea Zambonin, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Leonardo Marin

Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England) & Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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