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Classic Guinness Six Nations Moment: Italy 22-21 France

RBS Six Nations Championship 5/2/2011 Italy vs Ireland Mirco Bergamasco of Italy celebrates a penalty at the end of the first half Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Italy’s iconic 22-21 win over France remains one of the defining moments of the 2011 Championship.

The Azzurri came from behind in a rollercoaster encounter to record their first-ever Six Nations triumph over Les Bleus at the tenth attempt.

A statement result felt on the horizon for Nick Mallett’s side, who had come within a whisker of beating Ireland in Round 1, eventually going down 13-11, before giving Wales a scare in a 24-16 Round 3 defeat.

They welcomed France a fortnight later with history firmly against them, Italy’s only previous triumph in the fixture coming in 1997 when they ran out 40-32 victors in Grenoble.

At 18-6 down with half an hour remaining, tries from Vincent Clerc and Morgan Parra being added to by eight points from the latter’s boot, it looked as if Italy’s latest shot at toppling Les Bleus was slipping away – particularly when Mirco Bergamasco missed two kickable penalties.

But the Azzurri hit back through an Andrea Masi try and Bergamasco soon found his range off the tee, three successful penalties either side of another Parra effort giving the hosts a lead they held on to in an exhilarating victory.

It was a special moment for Mallett and the highlight of his tenure as coach, the South African being replaced in the role by Frenchman Jacques Brunel after the World Cup later that year.

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“The team played really well against Ireland and had a good game against Wales when we had a bit of bad luck,” said the former Springbok coach after the match.

“This win against a good French team is a huge achievement. I am so proud of the players and proud of what they’ve done for the Italian supporters.

“Sport is a funny thing, you lose a few in a row and then things change very quickly – the fans realise we were improving all the time.”

Former England and Lions legend Jeremy Guscott, covering the match for UK television, felt Italy were worthy of their win after their near misses against Ireland and Wales in Rome earlier in the tournament.

“I thought it was going to be the same result when Bergamasco missed those two kicks in the second half, but Italy dug deep and deserved their victory. It was absolutely fantastic,” he said.

Italy’s current crop will be hoping to create similar memories heading into the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, in which they host France on the opening weekend.

After history-making wins against the likes of Australia and Wales in recent years, they will now be aiming to channel some of the never-say-die Italian attitude they showed on that famous day 12 years ago in search of a repeat result.