Gabin Villiere’s hat-trick helped France overcame a slow start to move to the top of the early Six Nations standings with a 37-10 victory over Italy in Paris.
Italy looked more impressive than might be expected of a side that have now lost their last 33 Six Nations encounters, and France were guilty of too many errors in the early going.
But after Villiere’s try late in the first half gave the hosts breathing room at the break, they pulled clear in the second half for a bonus-point victory.
France got on the board first through Melvyn Jaminet’s early penalty, but Italy were making the most of some ill-discipline from the hosts.
Their reward came in the 17th minute when Paolo Garbisi kicked towards the corner and debutant Tommaso Menoncello grabbed the ball to cross.
That quietened the Paris crowd momentarily but France hit back eight minutes later as Anthony Jelonch intercepted a pass from Gloucester scrum-half Stephen Varney and raced 20 metres for the try.
After the two sides traded penalties and the lead, France struck again on the brink of half-time – swift passing through the middle left Jaminet and Villiere two on one, and Jaminet set up his team-mate before kicking the conversion to give the hosts an 18-10 lead at the break.
With breathing space, France looked much more assured when the teams re-emerged.
Jonathan Danty was stopped just short of the line two minutes into the second half, but it was only a temporary reprieve for Italy.
Five minutes later Gregory Alldritt fed Villiere who raced into the corner to give the hosts a 23-10 lead.
The bonus point was confirmed as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, with Damian Penaud exchanging passes with Antoine Dupont before touching down, with Jaminet adding the extras.
And there was just time for Villiere to complete his treble at the death, taking a short pass from Yoram Moefana to slide in and complete France’s first Six Nations hat-trick since Vincent Clerc in 2008.