Sanctioned 18 times by the referee, the Blues, winners of the Grand Slam last year, were hardly reassured.

Especially since their next opponent, Ireland, the first nation in the World Rugby rankings, impressed him on Saturday in Cardiff against Wales (34-10).

With five points, the Blues are in first place in the general classification of the tournament, tied with Ireland and Scotland, victorious over England on Saturday at Twickenham (29-23).

In search of a double after the Grand Slam won in 2022, and as "their" World Cup looms in the fall (September 8-October 28), we cannot say that the French have convinced at the Stadio Olimpico .

French center Yoram Moefana in attack against Italy, February 5, 2023 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome © Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

This lackluster success nevertheless allowed Fabien Galthié's men to chain a fourteenth victory in a row, stretching an unprecedented series in the history of French rugby, and a thirteenth victory in a row against Italy.

Feverishness, hand faults, offside … The French were punished too much, the referee of the meeting even rewarding Italy with a penalty try following yet another ground fault by the Blues.

Italy, in the wake of a year 2022 marked by two great victories, against Cardiff in the Tournament last spring (22-21) and over Australia (28-27) in the fall, has not not undeserved, scoring a try by the back Ange Capuozzo and recovering the defensive bonus point.

From the first period, concern was on the French side.

If the Blues managed to flatten three times, opening their counter by Thibaud Flament on interception from the 5th minute, the Italians, taking advantage of French indiscipline (nine penalties conceded against only two on the transalpine side), stuck to the score thanks to the foot from Tommaso Allan and a try from the inevitable Capuozzo.

The French 2nd line Romain Taofifenua (c) tackled by the Italian rear Edoardo Padovani, February 5, 2023 in Rome © Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Not everything is to be thrown away on the French side either, with in particular a powerful and precise footwork from Romain Ntamack, at the origin of the second and third tries, concretized respectively by the back Thomas Ramos and the Lyon winger Ethan Dumortier , who thus signs his first try for his first selection (6-19, 26th).

In just over 25 minutes, the French have already scored three tries.

Capuozzo, him again

But they nevertheless continued to be penalized and on a new fault of the Blues, Allan chooses this time the penaltouch.

He took it well since it was at this time that Capuozzo, following a carried ball, took the closed side to flatten in a corner (11-19, 32nd) his sixth international try in eight selections.

While the siren has already whistled, the French are again penalized (14-19), and Dupont is summoned by Mr. Carley: "It's the last", warns the referee before the two teams return to the locker room .

Italian rear Ange Capuozzo scores a try against France on February 5, 2023 in Rome © Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

From the start of the second period, on a penalty touch in the French five meters, while the Italians stormed the line, Charles Ollivon made a mistake and logically received a yellow card, accompanied by a penalty try , as the referee had promised: and here is Italy at one point (21-22, 51st).

While France is in numerical inferiority, and after a penalty missed by Ramos, Italy passes for the first time in score following yet another penalty, thanks to the foot of the metronome Tommaso Allan (24-22 at the 62nd).

While concern begins to close the faces on the French bench, Matthieu Jalibert, barely entering the meadow to replace Ntamack, manages to flatten in force, giving a definitive advantage to the French (24-29, 69th).

© 2023 AFP