Player of the Match Dupont: ‘More negatives than positives’

Dupont POTM Italy
Player of the Match Antoine Dupont feels France have a lot of work to do after they were given an almighty scare by gallant Italy in Rome.

Player of the Match Antoine Dupont feels France have a lot of work to do after they were given an almighty scare by gallant Italy in Rome.

France started the defence of their Grand Slam with a 29-24 victory but that does not tell the full story, with the Azzurri coming close to a winning score at the death.

Discipline was a particular issue for Les Bleus, with 18 penalties conceded – they averaged nine per game as they went unbeaten through 2022.

They managed to do enough in attack to get over the line however, with Dupont a constant menace yet again.

But the talismanic scrum-half feels his side must improve quickly if they are to triumph when they head to Ireland to play the world’s number one ranked side next weekend.

“We aren’t going to be jumping for joy after that win,” said Dupont.

“We were far too ill-disciplined. We were not able to stop the contagion that affected us from the first minute.

“We spoke about it at half-time but we were not able to find the solution during the game so we will have to look at it this week.

“We will try to be positive, but it’s clear that today there was a lot more negative than positive. And when you look at the scoreboard and how the game played out, it could have been worse.”

On the back of an historic win against Wales in the final game of the 2022 Championship and with a first-ever win over Australia under their belts, Italy looked a side full of confidence and vigour, particularly as they fought back from being 19-6 down to lead midway through the second half.

They may have paid respect to the defending champions but they certainly played without fear, often looking to run the ball out from deep inside their own half.

That in turn created opportunities for Les Bleus, and second row Paul Willemse said France were alive to those chances having done their due diligence ahead of the round one clash.

“Playing out of their 22, we expected it and that’s why we got a few rewards out of that,” said Willemse.

“We prepared during the week. I also think they utilised their opportunities quite well when we made mistakes so they put us under a lot of pressure.”

Willemse was playing his first match for France since the final game of last year’s Championship and was understandably delighted to return to action with a victory against an Italy side on the up ahead of four more huge tests.

“I’m really taking it all in and enjoying it because it’s a pleasure,” he said.

“We’re really happy with the win, but we have to give credit to Italy, I think they’ve really lifted their game since last year, they’ve really improved their game plan, their discipline, they put us under a lot of pressure and it was a tough game.

“It only gets harder. This competition is the best in the world so we’re really under pressure.

“Each game is going to be a different challenge and we really need to prepare well.”