France beat Italy 23-21 in the opening game of the 2016 Six Nations despite an unconvincing performance at the Stade de France. The hosts tried to play a more adventurous brand of rugby under their new coach Guy Noves, but still required a late penalty from Jules Plisson to claim a much-needed victory.
Noves' team scored two tries before half-time, with Virimi Vakatawa and Damien Chouly both crossing the line for the French. But they were unable to put any meaningful distance between themselves and their less-fancied opponents throughout the match.
A Carlo Canna drop-goal and Sergio Parisse's try kept Italy in touch with the home side, and they moved into the lead thanks to a Canna try. France hit back in style, though, thanks to Hugo Bonneval's score and the hosts sealed a narrow victory by virtue of Plisson's penalty.
Despite this, their victory came with one further alarm, when Parisse – who plays his club rugby in Paris with Stade Francais – attempted an audacious drop-goal that drifted wide of the post in the closing moments.
France: 15. Maxime Medard; 14. Hugo Bonneval, 13-Gael Fickou, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11.Virimi Vakatawa; 10. Jules Plisson, 9. Sebastien Bezy; 1. Eddy Ben Arous, 2. Guilhem Guirado, 3. Rabah Slimani, 4-Paul Jedrasiak, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Damien Chouly, 8. Louis Picamoles
Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Uini Atonio, 18. Jefferson Poirot, 19. Alexandre Flanquart, 20. Yacouba Camara, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Jean-Marc Doussain, 23. Maxime Mermoz
Italy: 15.David Odiete, 14. Leonardo Sarto, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Gonzalo Garcia, 11. Mattia Bellini, 10. Carlo Canna, 9. Edoardo Gori; 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2 Ornel Gega, 3. Lorenzo Cittadini, 4. George Fabio Biagi, 5. Marco Fuser, 6. Francesco Minto, 7. Alessandro Zanni, 8. Sergio Parisse
Replacements: 16. Davide Giazzon, 17. Matteo Zanusso, 18. Martin Castrogiovanni, 19. Valerio Bernabo, 20. Andries Van Schalkwyk, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Kelly Haimona, 23. Luke McLean