France has made the perfect start to their Six Nations rugby title bid, scoring seven tries in a crushing 50-10 bonus point victory over a youthful Italy side in the championship opener.
The visitors raced into a 21-point lead by half time after Antoine Dupont set up converted tries from Dylan Cretin, Gael Fickou and Arthur Vincent in Rome on Saturday.
The onslaught didn’t relent after the break as Brice Dulin and Dupont each crossed the whitewash, while Teddy Thomas scored tries either side of Luca Sperandio’s consolation effort to consign Italy to a 28th consecutive tournament defeat.
The huge victory further underlined the title-winning credentials of France, who finished as runners-up last year, while the inexperience of an Italian team featuring 11 players with fewer than 10 caps was ruthlessly exposed.
“We worked very well during our preparation camp in Nice. We focused on details, and today we implemented our plan,” France captain Charles Ollivon told French TV.
“We know the Italians well. They put a lot of intensity in the beginning of the game.
“Our performance gives us a lot of confidence for the Ireland game (on February 14).”
England host Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday, and Ireland visit Wales on Sunday in the other Round One fixtures.
France last won the Six Nations in 2010, but on the evidence of the devastating form they showed in the Italian capital, they will be in contention to wrestle the trophy from England’s grasp this year.
No team scored more tries than France’s 17 in last year’s championship, and they continued that attacking form in Rome despite missing injured fly-half Romain Ntamack and centre Virimi Vakatawa.
Man of the match Dupont put in an electric performance, the scrum-half sending Cretin under the posts for the opening try before making a deft kick behind the Italian defence for Fickou’s effort and offloading to set up Vincent’s score.