France and Scotland sound out Six Nations warnings

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Those were the main talking points of an intense first round of action, played before no crowds but with no reduction of drama.

 

France, making strong progress under coach Fabien Galthie towards Rugby World Cup 2023 on its home turf, retained the Garibaldi Trophy with ease, hammering a disappointing Italy 50-10 in Rome. In doing so, they have created a positive points differential that may be crucial in the final wash-up of the tournament.

 

Marshalled expertly by man of the man halfback Antoine Dupont, who scored one try and had a hand in two others, Les Bleus racked up a 24-3 halftime lead and played with dynamism and energy.

 

Italy, due to come to New Zealand shores in July, strung together some decent phases on attack, but was woefully lacking in defensive structure, lost several of its own lineout throws and kicked aimlessly. No 10 Paolo Garbisi took the ball to the line effectively but too often a promising movement came to nil.

 

Left wing Monty Ioane, formerly out of Bay of Plenty, ran hard and, along with halback Steve Varney, was the best of the Azzurri.

 

Italy coach Franco Smith subbed both his props before halftime, and has a mountain to climb to make his troops fully competitive when they face England at Twickenham this weekend.

 

Scotland engineered the eye-catching victory of the round, defeating England 11-6 at the Home of Rugby for its first win at the venue since 1983. In truth, the Scots could have won by 15 were it not for some wayward goalkicking and desperate England defence.

 

Scotland tackled like demons and ran with punch and intent. Kiwi Sean Maitland was one of the most penetrative backs on the right wing, while Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson led the pack to a dominant performance against an underdone England eight.

 

 

Left wing Duhan van der Merwe scored the sole try of the clash, a powerful finish close to the line. The home side seemed strangely clueless in the backs, while Scotland’s defence was rock-solid.

 

In all, England missed 27 tackles to Scotland’s five and conceded 15-6 penalties, which told the story of the visitors’ surfeit of possession.

 

Captain Stuart Hogg was man of the match with 92 running metres and eight tackle breaks.

 

The shock result saw the All Blacks swap with England into No 2 on the world rankings behind South Africa.

 

Wales won its most significant victory of the Wayne Pivac era, edging Ireland 21-16 in Cardiff.

 

But the Irish competed hard after losing Peter O’Mahony to a red card after just 12 minutes, his dangerous cleanout on Tomas Francis bring clearly and correctly ruled foul by referee Wayne Barnes.

 

Centre George North found space on the blind for Wales’ first try, while wing Louis Rees-Zammit finished a try in spectacular try to push the home side in front.

 

Kiwi James Lowe was full of running on Ireland’s left wing, while compatriot Jamison Gibson-Park was used off the bench at halfback.

 

All three round two fixtures loom as fascinating contents, though all eyes will be on Murrayfield to see if Scotland can back up its Twickers heroics.

 

 

Rome: France 50 (Teddy Thomas 2, Antoine Dupont, Brice Dulin, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Dylan Cretin tries; Mathieu Jalibert 6 con, pen) Italy 10 (Luca Sperandio try; Paolo Garbisi con, pen) HT: 24-3 France

 

London: Scotland 11 (Duhan van der Merwe try; Finn Russell 2 pen) England 6 (Owen Farrell 2 pen) HT: 8-6 Scotland

 

Cardiff: Wales 21 (George North, Louis Rees-Zammit tries; Leigh Halfpenny con, 3 pen) Ireland 16 (Tadgh Beirne try; Johnny Sexton con, 2 pen, Billy Burns pen) HT: 13-6 Ireland

 

Form XV:

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

14 Teddy Thomas (France)

13 George North (Wales)

12 Cam Redpath (Scotland)

11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

10 Finn Russell (Scotland)

9 Antoine Dupont (France)

8 Greg Alldritt (France)

7 Charles Ollivon (France)

6 Jamie Ritchie (Scotland)

5 Jonny Gray (Scotland)

4 Tadgh Beirne (Ireland)

3 Zander Fagerson (Scotland)

2 Julien Marchand (France)

1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

 

Round two (NZT)

England v Italy, London, Sunday 3.15am

Scotland v Wales, Edinburgh, Sunday 5.45am

Ireland v France, Monday 4am

 


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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10. He is now the editor of Rugby News magazine and co-editor of the Rugby Almanack.

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