|Jean Baptiste Elisalde gets the French backline going [GALLO/GETTY]|
A new era in French rugby got off to a flying start with a comprehensive 27-6 defeat of Scotland in the Six Nations at Murrayfield.
New coach Marc Lievremont's starting line-up featured four players making their debuts, including 21-year-old flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc.
But they never looked in danger of losing against a much more experienced Scots line-up.
With Murrayfield spared the high winds and snow that had been feared, the French backline saw plenty of the ball and a couple of tries from Toulouse's Vincent Clerc and one for fellow wing Julien Malzieu anchored what was a much more comfortable victory than anyone had expected.
"We have let our fans down," admitted Scotland coach Frank Hadden.
"We wanted to give them a win but France brought a lot of quality to the match and we made too many elementary errors."
Lievremont was delighted with the quality of his side's performance.
"We played a lot of good rugby but we also displayed a lot of spirit and fight in the best sense of the word."
With the most reliable goalkicker in world rugby, Chris Paterson, restricted to the Scots' bench, Hadden had invested heavily in the ability of his flyhalf, Dan Parks, to cope with the pressure of taking on that role.
The Australian-born number ten offered early reassurance, confidently slotting over a fourth-minute drop goal before finding touch within 10 yards of the French line from deep inside his own half.
But the Scots early pressure was soon punctured by a slick French counter-attack, Clerc cutting in from the right wing and indulging in a delightful exchange of passes with fullback Cedric
Heymans before touching down to the right of the posts.
|Man of the match Vincent Clerc [GALLO/GETTY]|
Damien Traille then slotted over a penalty from the half-way line to extend the French lead.
It was then that Parks's afternoon began to unravel. Having dragged the most straightforward of penalties wide, the Scots number ten gifted Malzieu a try to mark his international debut.
Having taken a quick tap penalty, the Clermont youngster lofted it towards the Scots line.
Charging after it, he could scarcely have believed his luck as full-back Rory Lamont completely missed the ball, leaving Parks frantically attempting to cover.
As he attempted to hack clear, the flyhalf succeeded only in slicing the ball into Malzieu's midriff and the debutant's reflexes were quick enough for him to hold on to it and touch down between the posts.
Parks made partial amends with a penalty on the half-hour mark to reduce the deficit to 17-6 but the Scots had to rely on Elissalde missing two straightforward penalties not to fall further behind before half-time.
Kicking duties were duly handed back to Traille and the Biarritz centre extended the French lead ten minutes after the restart when the Scots were penalised for collapsing the scrum.
Any prospect of a Scots fightback disappeared with quarter of an hour left when Clerc threaded a grubber kick down the right touchline and, with the help of a couple of freakishly fortunate bounces, was able to collect and go over for his second try.
The experienced David Skrela, who replaced a tiring Trinh-Duc with an hour gone, slotted over the conversion to make it 27-6.
Tindall in doubt
Meanwhile, England centre Mike Tindall could miss the rest of the Six Nations after suffering a serious injury in Saturday’s 26-19 defeat against Wales.
The Gloucester star is under observation in a London hospital after bruising to his liver during Saturday's defeat at Twickenham.
English Rugby Football Union officials say he is unlikely to play any further part in the tournament.
Fellow injury victims David Strettle, Tom Rees and Lewis Moody have been ruled out of next Sunday's clash against Italy in Rome as the problems pile up for coach Brian Ashton.
It is another blow for Tindall, who missed last year's World Cup when he failed to recover from a broken leg sustained on club duty.