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France lay their ghosts in Parma

Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Referee: Helen O'Reilly (IRE)

Visits to Italy have not been good for France in recent years, but they finally laid the ghosts of their defeats in 2013 and 2015 after an impressive first half performance to win the first Anita Garibaldi trophy

Italy have done well in recent years in this fixture, but normally in conditions very unlike those that greeted the teams in Parma. The hard ground on a beautiful spring day were conditions that always looked likely to favour the visiting team, and so it proved.

While possession was even for most of the first half, when given any space France were able to carve big holes in the Italian defence, while Italian opportunities (invariably set up by the Ilaria Arrighetti) often met with a solid wall of dark blue.

Once they got into a position inside the Italian 22 France rarely needed to recycle the ball more than a couple of times before finding a gap. Their first score came on eight minutes, a break by Audrey Forlani taking France down to the Italian line, where it was quickly recycled for Caroline Ladagnous to put the visitors on the board. Ten minutes later this was repeated, with this time Romane Menager getting the touch, on 27 minutes the French backs took Italy apart again, with Ladagnous adding her second, and then just before halftime Elodie Poublan added a fourth.

Italy had their fair share of chances at the other end, but France held firm. At halftime France lead by 25-0 – an Audrey Abadie penalty and conversion adding to the four tries.

The second half began with France continuing to have the upper hand, but – an Abadie penalty aside – the Italian defence held firm, even neutralising the French trademark maul. However, France were oddly flat in the second period and as the game entered the final quarter and they emptied their bench, Italy finally broke out and – after ten minutes of pressure – a well-organised maul got them across the line, Micaela Este getting the ball down.

And that was the end of the scoring. France had put their Italian hoodoo firmly to bed with their best ever Six Nations win on Italian soil, but that inconsistency that Annick Hayraud commented upon before the game remains. Based on the opening 40 minutes they should have kicked on and scored perhaps 40 points, but instead Italy won the second period 5-3. Still work for their new management team to do. 

Italy: 15 Manuela Furlan (Aylesford Bulls, 53 caps); 14 Michela Sillari (Aylesford Bulls, 32 caps); 13 Maria Grazia Cioffi (Rugby Colorno, 44 caps); 12 Sofia Stefan (Rennes, 30 caps); 11 Maria Magatti (ASR Monza, 17 caps); 10 Beatrice Rigoni (Valsugana Rugby, 19 caps); 9 Sara Barattin (Villorba Rugby, 70 caps) – capitano; 8 Elisa Giordano (Valsugana Rugby, 19 caps); 7 Isabella Locatelli (ASR Monza, 9 caps); 6 Lucia Cammarano (ASR Monza, 15 caps); 5 Alice Trevisan (Riviera del Brenta, 37 caps); 4 Elisa Pillotti (Rugby Parabiago, 8 caps); 3 Marta Ferrari (Rennes, 16 caps); 2 Melissa Bettoni (Rennes, 33 caps); 1 Elisa Cucchiella (Belve Neroverdi, 60 caps);

16 Lucia Gai (Valsugana Rugby Padova, 45 caps); 17 Gaia Giacomoli (Rugby Colorno, 5 caps); 18 Michela Este (Benetton Treviso, 51 caps); 19 Ilaria Arrighetti (Rennes, 23 caps); 20 Valeria Fedrighi (Rugby Riviera 1975, 1 cap); 21 Veronica Madia (Rugby Colorno, 2 cap); 22 Elisa Bonaldo (Rugby Colorno, 1 cap); 23 Paola Zangirolami (Valsugana Rugby, 70 caps)

Frabce: 15 Shanon Izar; 14 Camille Grassineau; 13 Caroline Ladagnous; 12 Elodie Poublan ; 11 Caroline Boujard ; 10 Audrey Abadie; 9 Yanna Rivoalen; 1 Lise Arricastre ; 2 Gaelle Mignot ; 3 Julie Duval ; 4 Celine Ferer ; 5 Audrey Forlani; 6 Marjorie Mayans; 7 Romane Menager; 8 Safi N'Diaye

16 Caroline Thomas; 17 Arkya Ait Labib; 18 Lenaig Corson; 19 Gaelle Hermet; 20 Jade Le Pesq; 21 Caroline Drouin; 22 Jessy Tremouliere; 23 Patricia Carricaburu;