England and France kick-off with wins

New coaches Philippe Saint-Andre and Stuart Lancaster get off to positive starts with their sides in the Six Nations.

     Julien Malzieu beats the Italian defence to score a great try for France in the Six Nations [GALLO/GETTY]

    World Cup finalists France handed new coach Philippe Saint-Andre a winning start in the Six Nations with a 30-12 victory over Italy at a freezing Stade de France on Saturday.

    England also began their new era under caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster with a win beating Scotland 13-6, their first success in four attempts at Murrayfield, to get the defence of their Six Nations title off to victorious start.

    Tries from Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana, allied with 10 points from Dimitri Yachvili's boot guided France past a toothless Italy side that dominated territory and possession for large periods of the game.

    The visitors rarely threatened the French line and when they did launch an attack, were well marshalled by the home side, their points coming from Kris Burton's drop-goal and two penalties, and a third penalty by Tobias Botes.

    "Not everything was perfect, and we will have to take a closer look at all this during the week. But it is always hard to get into the tournament and we knew this beforehand"

    France's Aurelien Rougerie

    "Not everything was perfect, and we will have to take a closer look at all this during the week. But it is always hard to get into the (Six Nations) tournament and we knew this beforehand," said Rougerie.

    Italy dominated the opening 10 minutes of play without really threatening, but it was Yachvili who opened the scoring with a 11th minute penalty.

    The Australia-born Burton, who had an optimistic early drop-goal charged down, was successful with his second effort to draw the scores level.

    France hit straight back, centre Rougerie slicing clean through the midfield defence for a simple try Yachvili converted for a 10-3 lead.

    Burton cut the deficit with a penalty after Pascal Pape failed to roll away at a ruck in front of his own posts.

    Italy continued to pose France problems at the set-piece and the home side were guilty of forcing the pass as they tried to get on the front foot.

    But then Malzieu popped up on his left wing, the welcome recipient of a pass from the impressive No 8 Louis Picamoles after the French pack had won a scrum against the head, the lanky Clermont flyer scoring a fine individual try.

    Handing off Edoardo Gori and full-back Andrea Masi, Malzieu easily stepped inside rookie counterpart Giovambattista Venditti and produced a further fend of Gori to crash over in the corner, Yachvili missing the extras.

    Run ragged

    Burton's early second-half penalty from the halfway line fell short, but the fly-half nailed a third effort from close range in the 47th minute to keep Italy in the game.

    But as they had done against Ireland and Australia in the World Cup, the Italians began to wilt around the 50-minute mark, and looked increasingly ragged around the ruck and the half-back channel.

    Yachvili missed a longe-range effort as France tried to turn the screw, debutant centre Wesley Fofana finally able to show some of his trademark dancing footwork in close quarters.

    The Biarritz scrum-half made no mistake with his third penalty effort, which was quickly followed by Clerc's try, the result of a chip and chase by Francois Trinh-Duc with the Italian defence nowhere to be seen.

    With a muted, near sell-out crowd of 79,563 seemingly numbed by temperatures of -2 Celsius, South Africa-born replacement Botes kicked a third penalty for the Italians.

    But it ended with a fourth French try after Quintin Geldenhuys was shown a yellow card for collapsing a rolling maul with the line in sight. From the ensuing line-out and ruck, Fofana showed good strength to cross for a try to mark an assured first international outing.

    Good for starters

    England, with three uncapped starters and another five on the bench, delivered an impressive defensive display in a
    typically scrappy Calcutta Cup match and scored the only try of the match in the first minute of the second half when flyhalf Charlie Hodgson charged down a Dan Parks kick.

    Twenty-year-old centre Owen Farrell converted it and also landed two penalties in an assured debut while Parks scored two penalties for Scotland, who led 6-3 at the break but wasted a series of promising positions with knock-ons, dropped balls and wayward passes.

    It was an encouraging start for Lancaster, given charge of the team for the Six Nations, as England found a way to win a difficult game after losing two and drawing one of their previous three games at Murrayfield.

    There were few signs of the cohesive attacking play he said he wanted to bring to the team but for a side showing so many changes from the World Cup campaign the team looked impressively well-organised.



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