Dupont shines as France beats Italy 50-10 in 6N opener

ROME (AP) — Antoine Dupont scored a try and set up three others as France got its Six Nations campaign off to a thumping start by defeating Italy 50-10 in Rome on Saturday.

Teddy Thomas scored two tries and Dylan Cretin, Gaël Fickou, Arthur Vincent and Brice Dulin also crossed for France. Matthieu Jalibert was perfect off the tee with six conversions and a penalty.

While outclassed, Italy fought to the end and Luca Sperandio scored in the last quarter. Paolo Garbisi converted to add to a first-half penalty.

It was Italy’s record-extending 28th consecutive Six Nations defeat. It hasn't won since 2015.

France was looking for a strong start against the tournament’s weakest team to boost its aim of going one better than last year’s second-place finish. The Tricolors finished behind England on points difference and were also runners-up to Eddie Jones’ side in the Autumn Nations Cup.

It didn't take long to make its mark. Thomas launched an attack from a standing start on the right wing inside his half, left wing Gabin Villière took it to the line and the flanker Cretin crashed over beside the posts for his fist test try.

Italy worked overtime to get into France's 22 twice and threaten but was undone by self-inflicted errors.

But France had the ball, it hardly had to sweat.

Setting up a lineout maul, Dupont threaded through a chip to the line with no Italians home and Fickou grounded the ball.

Moments later, Dupont hacked at a dropped pass by Italy, Villière got a kind bounce, Dupont was in support and threw a no-look pop-up for center Vincent to grab and score and make it 24-3. France had three tries and spent 54 seconds in Italy's 22.

Italy thought it finally got a try just before halftime when scrumhalf Stephen Varney dummied twice and put in left wing Montanna Ioane, but the pass was ruled forward.

France also made a flying start in the second half. Italy fullback Jacopo Trulla just beat Thomas to a Dupont grubber over the tryline, but the bonus-point try came moments later when Dulin counterattacked from outside his 22, gathered Villière’s chip and scored in the left corner.

Then from lineout ball, Thomas came off his wing, sliced through and sent Dupont in. Dupont returned the favor three minutes later after Jalibert shrugged off an Italian on his back and made the break.

Dupont, the player of the 2020 Six Nations, was taken off in a great start to the new campaign.

France led 45-3 with 23 minutes to go, when Italy has tended to fade. But the Italians bit back thanks to a breakdown turnover by Maxime Mbanda. Trulla got the ball to the right wing where Sperandio executed a perfect chip and chase to score his first international try.

France's only try of the last quarter came off a 5-meter scrum, when Thomas stepped a defender and got his team to a half-century against Italy for the first time since 2009.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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