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France overpower Italy to maintain Grand Slam hopes

By Martyn Thomas
France's lock Madoussou Fall (3R) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring a try during the Six Nations international women's rugby union match between France and Italy at the Jean Bouin Stadium in Paris, on April 14, 2024. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

France moved to within a point of England at the top of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations 2024 standings with a comfortable 38-15 defeat of Italy at Stade Jean Bouin.


Les Bleues had been profligate in their second round defeat of Scotland – scoring 15 points from as many visits to their opponents’ 22 – but they wrapped up a try bonus-point by half-time in Paris on Sunday and remain in the hunt for the Grand Slam.

Nassira Konde, Annaëlle Deshaye, Charlotte Escudero and Melissande Llorens each breached the Italian line in the first half, while player of the match Assia Khalfaoui and Madoussou Fall crossed the whitewash after the break.

Italy’s contribution to the scoreboard came via a first-half Beatrice Rigoni penalty and an impressive brace of tries from Allysa D’Inca in the second before referee Joy Neville blew her whistle for the final time in international rugby.

Womens Six Nations
France Women's
38 - 15
Italy Women's
All Stats and Data

The Azzurre had never beaten Les Bleues in France ahead of kick off, and the story that unfolded in the Parisian sunshine was similar to those that have played out over the past 38 years.

Les Bleues needed less than two minutes to open the scoring as Konde finished off a fine French team move that was given impetus by a delicious chip ahead by Lina Queyroi.

The fly-half added the extras and France came within a successful pass of extending their lead soon afterwards, but Pauline Bourdon Sansus could not hold on to Escudero’s offload metres from the try line.


Italy appeared to be galvanised by that let off, though, and spent much of the next 15 minutes camped inside the French half.

However, a mix of handling errors and relentless home defence – particularly at the breakdown – meant they only had Rigoni’s 21st-minute penalty to show for all their possession and territory. And they would be made to pay for their profligacy before the half was over.

Within two minutes of Rigoni cutting her side’s arrears, France prop Deshaye had taken a pass from front-row colleague Khalfaoui and powered her way to the line from just outside the 22.

Queyroi converted again before the momentum swung decisively in the hosts’ favour with a little over 10 minutes of the first half remaining; Sara Tounesi shown a yellow card for bringing down a French maul illegally.


From the resulting lineout, Les Bleues set the move in motion that would end with Escudero diving gleefully over the line.

And France wrapped up a try bonus-point before the half-time whistle sounded, ruthlessly punishing an Italian overthrow as Melissande Llorens leapt to collect a pinpoint Queyroi crossfield kick and touch down in the left corner.

Queyroi missed the touchline conversion to leave the score 26-3 at the break, but it took the hosts less than four second-half minutes to extend their advantage further.

Khalfaoui burrowed over from close range and following a TMO check, Les Bleues’ fifth try of the afternoon at Stade Jean Bouin was awarded.

The carnival atmosphere in western Paris was pricked slightly in the 55th minute when D’Inca came off her wing and took a scoring pass from Rigoni, who then converted.

Any notion of a comeback was extinguished eight minutes later, though, as Fall benefitted from a well-oiled French lineout move, and some suspect Italian tackling, to score France’s sixth try.

There was still time for D’Inca to score the try of the afternoon as she tiptoed her way down the left wing from distance. But the result had long since been decided and France can look ahead to matches against Wales and England knowing that a first Six Nations title in six years is still within their grasp.


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