ROME (AP) — France put down a daring Italy 29-24 on Sunday and played its part in setting the stage for the eagerly awaited Six Nations showdown with Ireland next weekend.
The French, ranked No. 2 in the world, will be defending the title against the Irish, ranked No. 1, and the nominal title favorite. France hasn’t lost since 2021 and Ireland hasn’t lost at home since 2021, when France last visited Dublin.
But to extend its winning streak to 14 tests, France had to overcome an unexpectedly serious scare from Italy.
Italy fought back from 19-6 down to lead for the first time in the match at 24-22 with less than a quarter to go. It had been 10 years since Italy had beaten France or won at home but the huge crowd at Stadio Olimpico weren’t the only ones on edge.
France was making uncharacteristic errors and conceded a yellow card for the first time in more than a year. The difference in the end came from a late injection of fresh reinforcements.
Sekou Macalou earned a turnover, and ultimately fellow replacement Romain Taofifenua gave the last pass for Matthieu Jalibert to crash over near the posts for a bonus-point fourth try with 13 minutes left.
Italy hammered France to the end, though. Tommasso Allan missed a long-range penalty and a last-gasp lineout drive was broken up by France to end the match in relief.
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