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France leapfrog All Blacks to claim top spot in Pool A with utterly dominant win

By Finn Morton
Damian Penaud of France celebrates scoring the team's fourth try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between France and Italy at Parc Olympique on October 06, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

LYON – The All Blacks will finish second in a Rugby World Cup group for the first time as France claimed pole position out of Pool A with an utterly dominant 60-7 win over Italy on Friday night.

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World-class wing Damian Penaud crossed for a first-half brace as Les Bleus ran riot at the home of French football side Olympique Lyonnais.

The Azzurri showed minor glimpses of promise, but it was nothing compared to the relentless rugby force that is France. Italy were simply lost for answers as Les Bleus ran away with a massive win.

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France is expected to take on defending World Cup champions South Africa in a blockbuster quarterfinal next weekend, but Scotland can throw a spanner in the works against Ireland on Saturday.

But the host nation will be there in the next stage, and they’ll go into knockout rugby full of confidence and belief that they can go all the way at this Rugby World Cup.

French flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert kicked off this decisive pool play clash just after 9 pm, and it became clear almost immediately that this would be Les Bleus’ night.

Thousands of French fans let out a deafening cheer as world-class wing Damian Penaud crossed for the opening try of the Test in just the first minute.

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Unfortunately for the Azzurri, that score was a sign of things to come. Fullback Thomas Ramos kicked a long-range penalty a couple of minutes later and it was all one-way traffic from there.

Match Summary

2
Penalty Goals
0
8
Tries
1
7
Conversions
1
0
Drop Goals
0
143
Carries
112
11
Line Breaks
4
7
Turnovers Lost
9
7
Turnovers Won
6

The French crowd were bouncing and cheering as their team regained possession after the kick-off and began to make their way up the field.

Penaud made an electrifying break through a concerningly large gap in the Italian defence, but the wing couldn’t quite link up with teammate Louis Bielle-Biarrey with a grubber kick.

But Penaud made amends just a minute later with the outside back hitting Bielle-Biarrey with a crossfield kick. Bielle-Biarrey still had plenty of work to do, but showed his class by beating three Italian defenders en route to the try line.

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With the 20-minute mark rapidly approaching, Les Bleus were in complete control. France had dominated the Test with 88% territory and 73% of possession.

The Azzurri had kicked most of their ball away and France made the most of it. Penaud came close to another try but a deflected offload saw Ramos cross unopposed instead. The sharpshooter added the extras to give the hosts a commanding 24-nil after just 22 minutes.

But Italy refused to throw in the towel. The Azzurri threw everything at their opponents with their best try-scoring opportunity of the half, and eventually prop Simone Ferrari crashed over – but it was called back for a high tackle.

The French crowd cheered once again as the referee’s decision was made official, but the Italians looked dejected, frustrated and somewhat broken. Nothing was going to plan.

France completed their first-half rout with flyhalf Jalibert setting Penaud up for his second with a clever cross-field kick. Jalibert was under pressure, too, with the playmaker hit as he kicked the ball.

Les Bleus took a commanding 31-nil lead into the sheds at half-time and emerged out of the tunnel after the break as almost an even better side.

Jalibert sliced through the Italian defence as Les Bleus piled on more point-scoring misery upon the Italians, and they weren’t done there either.

Hooker Peato Mauvaka scored a minute before he was replaced, and another score to replacement Yoram Moefana saw France hit the 50-point mark with just under 20 minutes to play.

But credit to the Italians, they kept fighting. With the Test clearly over the Azzurri scored with 10 minutes to play through reserve Manuel Zuliani.

The entire stadium roared as injured halfback Antoine Dupont was shown on the big screen, and this seemed to give Les Bleus a lift with Moefana crossing for another shortly after. Thomas Ramos completed France’s rout with a last-minute penalty.

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Comments

28 Comments
W
Wa 249 days ago

There should be a two tier playoff system in RWC … with more 2nd tiers playing each other to determine a winner.

That gets used to progress to the top tier in 4 years.

This can also be used to boost RWC income… as initial 2nd tier games could start early, and be played in more cities / arenas.

By the time the 2nd tier reach playoffs, the top tier RWC groups start. So there is overlap.

Their “final” would be at the main stadium. They’d have their own cup… and the chance to progress.

This will give more developing nations incentive to progress, increase interest in rugby, and make the RWC a bigger event.

M
Michael 249 days ago

If teams are continued to be blocked from bigger competition, then there won’t be a World Rugby. Just a couple of regions playing the game at one level and everyone else at another. I still make the point that Ireland have 29 wooden spoons in home nation/5/6 nation history, followed by France and Italy 23. Pathways, structures and development programmes are needed. Italy still doesn't have this working correctly. Get rid of this lot and rebuild with u20 and few experienced ones.

P
PutMeInCoach 249 days ago

Why is Italy in the 6 Nations when they got beat as bad as the tier 2 nations…twice?

B
B.J. Spratt 250 days ago

Ireland look like the winners of the 2023 Rugby World Cup to me. I can’t find a reason to back against them beating the All Blacks in the quarter finals. Can anyone tell me what tactics, we need to employ to beat Ireland. I basically see us “Beaten up Front and out loose forwards aren’t good enough. We don’t seem to be able to put phases together, so we “fire the ball out wide” and that scenario is predictable and rushing defence will be employed by the Irish.

U
Utiku Old Boy 250 days ago

Getting tired of all the TMO / officiating intrusion. Italy’s earlier try because a clean-out to the chest “slid up to the neck area” but with “very low level of severity” had the effect of ruling out the try but ignored French clean-outs in the same play - also around the head. Some rugby is becoming almost un-watchable.

A
Another 250 days ago

A mighty, dominant performance by France but…..how does it compare to the performance of the last opponents Italy played?

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