France's Frederic Michalak looks on as Italy's players
celebrate at the end of the match in their Six Nations
international Rugby match at the Olympic stadium in Rome.
REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini
Italy produced a stunning all-round performance to shock
France 23-18 at the Stadio Olimpico and blast the Six Nations
More usually contenders for the competition's wooden spoon,
Italy proved their victory over the French two seasons ago
was no fluke as they defended well and took their chances
against the 2011 World Cup runners-up.
Tries from captain Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni,
plus 10 points from man-of-the-match Luciano Orquera and
three from substitute Kris Burton led them to victory, just
their third ever over the French.
France were far from their best and despite tries from Louis
Picamoles and Benjamin Fall and eight points from a
rejuvenated Frederick Michalak, they were deservedly beaten
by Jacques Brunel's effervescent side.
"I'm really happy for the team and the fans, after two years
we've beaten France again in Rome," Orquera told reporters.
"We were mentally extremely strong right from the beginning,
we wanted to win at any cost and we were always in the match.
We never gave up."
Italy joined England and Ireland on two points and sit in
third place after the first round of games, which included
another upset as holders Wales lost 30-22 to Ireland on
Saturday. A fired-up England were 38-18 winners over
Italy captain Parisse led from the front, putting his team
ahead with only four minutes gone with a spectacular
The move was started when Luke McLean recovered a France kick
and burst through the first line of defence. The ball was fed
to the magnificent Orquera, who offloaded to his captain and
then converted the try.
France responded with intense pressure, and a try bundled
over the line by Picamoles looked to have levelled the
scores, only for Michalak to miss an easy conversion.
Orquera extended Italy's lead to 10-5 with a smart drop goal
on the quarter hour and the number 10 continued his hot form
three minutes later with a converted penalty given for Maxime
Mermoz's offside offence.
Italy's defence did brilliantly to hold back France's
powerful attack in the first half hour, only conceding a
27th-minute Michalak penalty after France had a Yoann Huget
try denied by the TMO a minute before.
However, Philippe Saint-Andre's team took the lead three
minutes later, Benjamin Fall taking the ball from Huget and
scoring a try under the posts which Michalak had no problem
converting to give France a 15-13 halftime lead.
Flyhalf Michalak, who was brought back into the international
fold by Saint-Andre last year after several seasons in the
wilderness, gave France a five-point advantage with a penalty
for collapsed scrum with 50 minutes gone.
He nearly made it eight two minutes later when he narrowly
missed another penalty from near the halfway line.
France looked to be dominating but a sudden burst of pressure
from Italy resulted in Castrogiovanni scoring his 12th
international try on 56 minutes which was comfortably
converted by Orquera for a 20-18 scoreline.
Burton, who replaced Orquera as flyhalf, gave his side a
five-point lead 12 minutes later with a deft drop goal which
had Italy fans dreaming of a repeat of their 2011 heroics
when they beat France 22-21 for their first Six Nations win
As the match moved to its close, France turned the screw, and
with a minute left Davide Giazzon was sin-binned, leaving the
home fans to suffer for the excruciating final seconds of
But with a huge crowd roaring their team on they kept their
opponents at bay for an incredible win and a dream start to
the Six Nations for their French coach Brunel against his
"I was in emotional turmoil the whole match," Brunel told
reporters. "France are a great side and it's never an easy
game. The match could have gone either way as we saw.
"The team has really grown and today they demonstrated their
strength. It's the right time to manage Italy."
France manager Saint-Andre was left to reflect on where it
had all gone wrong.
"We lacked precision and accuracy. We didn't take advantage
of our chances while we were in the lead and the Italians
overtook us," he told reporters.
"The first half an hour was bad and the last half an hour was
a catastrophe. It hurts but it's only one game. What we have
to do now is concentrate on the Wales match on Saturday."