Five Classics: Italy v France

The Azzurri have triumphed twice in 23 Guinness Six Nations matches between Italy and France, but the meetings are always unfailingly entertaining.

The Azzurri have triumphed twice in 23 Guinness Six Nations matches between Italy and France, but the meetings are always unfailingly entertaining.

The two Italian victories at the beginning of the 2010s are indelibly etched into rugby folklore.

And while French wins are not collector’s items, there are a handful that will live long in the memory.

2000 – France 42-31 Italy

The first meeting in the Guinness Six Nations between Italy and France came on 1 April 2000, and in the lead-up to the game French media had urged their team not to play the fool.

Their record at the Stade de France was no laughing matter, having lost their five previous matches there in a two-year barren spell.

And if it wasn’t for Walter Cristofoletto’s ill-discipline, that unwelcome run could have been extended even further.

Before the Italian flanker was sent to the sin bin for arguing with the officials in the first half, the visitors were 17-10 up and by the time he was sent off for a stamp in the 59th minute, France were leading 30-17.

From that point on, the Azzurri battled hard to run in two tries, both converted by Diego Dominguez who left the stadium to applause from all sides after announcing his retirement before the match.

2011 – Italy 22-21 France

One of Italy’s greatest ever results, the Round 4 game was the last Test match at a packed Stadio Flaminio in Rome.

Italy had never beaten France in the Guinness Six Nations and while the comeback win did not prevent a fourth consecutive wooden spoon for the Azzurri, it did effectively end France’s title hopes.

Trailing for most of the match, Italy’s deficit stood at 12 points with 30 minutes left.

An Andrea Masi try put Italy within striking distance before winger Marco Bergamasco nailed a touchline penalty – his fifth of the match – in the 76th minute to snatch a historic victory for Nick Mallett’s side.

2013 – Italy 23-18 France

The Italians didn’t have to wait long for their second victory over France in the Guinness Six Nations.

France travelled to the Stadio Olympico in Rome for their opening match of the 2013 edition in fine form, having swept aside Australia, Argentina and Samoa the previous November.

But the visitors would get off to a rocky start as Sergio Parisse stormed over in the fourth minute from a devastating counter-attack.

But Philippe Saint-André’s men hit back through tries from Louis Picamoles and Benjamin Fall to hold a delicate 18-13 lead 10 minutes into the second half.

But just as momentum appeared to favour Les Bleus, Martin Castrogiovanni gratefully dived over the whitewash after superb sniping from Luciano Orquera who slotted the extras.

With 22 minutes still to play the result was far from secured, but a herculean defensive effort paired with Kris Burton’s drop goal dragged Italy over the line.

2016 – France 23-21 Italy

The 2016 Guinness Six Nations curtain-raiser was an electric back-and-forth match edged by France, and the destination of the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy was anyone’s guess right up until JP Doyle’s final whistle.

The lead changed hands eight times during the game and France went ahead for good through Jules Plisson’s penalty five minutes from time.

Italian captain Sergio Parisse was the culprit for Plisson’s third successful kick, a monster penalty from halfway to nudge the French in front.

Guinness Six Nations legend Parisse attempted to steal the win in the dying seconds, but his drop goal attempt was as mistimed as it was inexplicable.

2019 – Italy 14-25 France

Nothing but pride rested on this Round 5 meeting between Italy and France and Damian Penaud played a starring role in France retaining the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy for the sixth time on the trot.

But it was the Azzurri who took an early lead, Tommaso Allan’s two penalties swiftly eclipsed by Antoine Dupont’s 16th minute try.

Fast forward and with the scoreline delicately poised at 20-14, France’s winger Penaud denied Marco Zanon a potentially match-winning try on his debut in the 74th minute.

Four minutes later Penaud was the recipient of Romain Ntamack’s offload and he raced away to seal the victory.