France will face England in the Fall Nations Cup final next weekend after beating Italy 36-5 at the Stade de France in Paris.
The victory means France edged Scotland at the top of Group B with three out of three wins and will travel to Twickenham next Sunday for the tournament final.
Fabien Galthie has selected a new French team for this match with Italy because, under an FFR agreement with the Top 14 clubs, he can only select players for three Tests in this autumn program.
The management team had opted for continuity earlier in the fall, their first-choice XV off Wales, Ireland and Scotland. This game against Italy was a chance for new faces and reminded the players to make an impression – and they did, it just took them a little while to do it.
They scored five tries in all, but four of them came in the final half hour.
There was an understandable lack of cohesion in the first half, with Italy looking much more consistent in attack and defense given the extended period they’ve spent together.
It was the Azzurri that scored the first try – and a well-worked try.
Marco Zanon took a powerful break, Paolo Garbisi beat the French plateers and fed Carlo Canna, whose test gave Italy a 5-3 lead.
Still, France took a 10-5 lead at the break thanks to a converted try from Jonathan Danty late in the opening period, with the center gaining the upper hand after a five-yard scrum.
The third quarter was fractured, with the two teams struggling to put the phases together, but the French then scored two tries while Italian winger Jacopo Trulla was in the trash for a deliberate knock-on.
First, Gabin Villiere broke through the Italian defense after a French line-up flight (see below), then a powerful driving maul in Italy 22 ended with a try for scrum-half Baptiste Serin.
Teddy Thomas got the bonus point test after being pushed back to the wing by Brice Dulin in the 63rd minute and Sekou Macalou concluded the victory by crossing once the clock went red.
It was far from a perfect performance for France – to be expected given the number of changes and new caps – but it was a convincing victory nonetheless.
France are the only side to beat England in 2020, triumphing 24-17 in Paris in the Six Nations opener, but it will be a very different French side that line up at Twickenham for the final due to of this FFR agreement with the 14 best clubs.
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