ROME: Fly-half Luciano Orquera kicked 10 points and Kris Burton dropped a match-winning goal as Italy belied their status as Six Nations also-rans to stun tournament co-favourites France 23-18 at the Olympic Stadium here on Sunday.
France came into their opener buoyed by three morale-boosting wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa in November, but under pressure to make a solid start, having finished a mediocre fourth in last year’s edition.
Adding to coach Philippe Saint-Andre’s task was knowing that on their last outing in Italy, in March 2011, they suffered a 22-21 defeat.
With Italy showing progress in their own November Test campaign, notably against New Zealand and Australia, France came to the capital ready for a physical encounter.
Instead, the hosts eschewed the errors for which they have become known and added their own brand of expansive, flowing rugby to frustrate France throughout a thrilling encounter.
“You have to say hats off to Italy,” said Saint-Andre. “They’re 10th in the (world) rankings, they’re improving all the time and today they simply deserved to win.
“We were lacking in terms of precision, we gave the ball away too often and didn’t use the opportunities we created to pull ahead when we could have.”
Italy coach Jacques Brunel was made to sweat for the remainder after Burton, a 64th minute replacement for Orquera, gave Italy a 23-18 lead in the 68th minute.
But the Azzurri, showing discipline in defence as France threatened in the final 10 minutes, held them off to secure a second consecutive Six Nations win almost a year after beating Scotland.
With the Scots up next for Italy at Murrayfield, Brunel said it will soon be time to keep the emotions in check. — AFP