France finally won on the road in the Six Nations after two years by accounting for Italy 40-18 at the Stadio Olimpico.
France had lost five straight games away from home, including in London and Dublin this year. But back in Rome for the first time since 2015, the French earned their first four-try bonus point.
The fourth try didn’t come until the 78th minute, but the win was secured long before then.
Italy earned admiration and some scorn in the last round for reading the rulebook and innovatively not contesting rucks against England. The defending champions were limited to winning 36-15.
There was no new tactic this time, only attack. But France’s pack gradually assumed control, and stole three lineouts and two scrum put-ins from Italy.
Home captain Sergio Parisse scored a try from an offload by Carlo Canna, and Italy held a five-point lead thanks to a withering start until a Gael Fickou dummy and burst ended with a converted try in the 21st minute. France were back in front and didn’t let go.
A brilliant tackle from full-back Edoardo Padovani cut down France winger Virimi Vakatawa five metres from the line just before half-time, but he got his try early in the second half. Canna stopped counterpart Camille Lopez, but he offloaded to Vakatawa, who strolled to between the posts.
Italy thought they had a second try ten minutes later but replacement back Giorgio Bronzini was prevented from touching down by full-back Brice Dulin’s arm.
French No.8 Louis Picamoles scored his side’s third try in the 67th minute, wheeling off the back of an attacking scrum, and France pushed harder for the bonus-point fourth try. They thought they had it four minutes later when prop Eddy Ben Arous went over, but the video ref ruled Picamoles was tackled into touch in the build-up.
Dulin secured the bonus point in the 78th minute, which left time enough for Italy to score a consolation try from winger Angelo Esposito.
But consolation is relative. In four matches so far, Italy have scored only 12 points in the second half, while conceding 120.