Laporte happy to stay in grand slam hunt

HOME wins over Ireland and Italy have kept France in the race for a Six Nations title and a possible grand slam decider against England, which is enough to satisfy their coach Bernard Laporte.

France 25 Italy 0

"We are back on the path to victory and I'm happy with our performances as a whole," Laporte said after Saturday's scrappy victory over Italy.

"We came out with a lot of positives. We have done our best to play an ambitious game and I am particularly pleased by our team spirit."

Pleased or relieved was the question nobody dared to ask the French coach, who admitted to having a lot of worries before the opening game against Ireland, which they won 35-17.

The France coach may have found positives in the displays against Ireland and Italy, but they will probably have to raise their game in the game against Wales in Cardiff on March 7.

"We scored four tries against Ireland," Laporte said. "Against Italy, I'm particularly satisfied by our forwards' performance and our defence.I think that you could say that theball was ours for 110 minutes." The official statistics of the game show France completed 260 passes, won 10 line-outs against the throw and made 66 tackles to 148 from the Italians."We created lots of chances," said Laporte. "We didn't make the most of it, but we still scored three tries and we crossed the line two more times only to be robbed of 14 points by silly mistakes." The French coach was referring to a burst to the line from replacement prop Jean-Jacques Crenca, disallowed for crossing, and the dreadful blunder by Christophe Dominici. The Stade Francais winger skipped through a gap and crossed the line unopposed in the 52nd minute but, in the act of touching down one-handed without a defender in sight, dislodged the ball with his knee.

"To do such a thing is totally unacceptable at international level," said Laporte. "It's a lack of respect for the team, for all the work that has been done during the week of training and for himself."

John Kirwan, the former All Black wing now coaching Italy, was the only one still talking about French fantasy and unpredictability in the Stade de France media room on Saturday.

"If the French can continue playing with their flair and unpredictability, I think they could maybe break down the English defence," he said. "However, I found the English very, very methodical and mechanical. So ... I'll tell you in a month."

FRANCE: Brusque, Clerc, Jauzion, Traille, Dominici, Peyrelongue, Elissalde, Marconnet, Servat, De Villiers, Pelous, Pape, Betsen, Magne, Harinordoqui.

Replacements: Elhorga for Brusque (64), Yachvili for Elissalde (75), Crenca for Marconnet (69), Bru for Servat (49), Auradou for Pelous (78), Lievremont for Magne (78).

ITALY: De Marigny, Bergamasco, Stoica, Barbini, D. Dallan, Wakarua, Griffen, Lo Cicero, Ongaro, Castrogiovanni, Dellape, Bortolami, De Rossi, Persico, Parisse.

Replacements: Mazzucato for Barbini (49), M. Dallan for D. Dallan (59), Festuccia for Ongaro (59), Perugini for Castrogiovanni (73), Checchinato for Dellape (54).

Ref: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

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