Even a late fightback in which the Azzurri plundered 14 points could not detract from Ellis’ satisfaction from a job well done as he savoured a 26-point victory.
“We were quite pleased with how we set up in the game but we sort of fell asleep a little bit in the last 10 minutes of the first half and it took us a while to wake up,” said Englishman Ellis, who is also defence coach at London Irish.
“We more or less achieved what we wanted to. We conceded a couple of tries after we had made many changes, for example playing Morgan Parra at number 10. He hasn’t got the habit of defending as a 10 from a scrum and he got caught out a couple of times. “In general, if you had asked us before the game if we would score almost 50 points, we’d have taken it. For an hour of the game, everything went to plan.”
Centre David Marty, preferred in the starting line-up to Mathieu Bastareaud, justified coach Marc Lievremont’s selection by scoring two tries in eight minutes, both while Italy were down to 14 men with Gonzalo Garcia in the bin.
Winger Marc Andreu and flanker Alexandre Lapandry both scored their first tries for their country and other tries came from Imanol Harinordoquy and Yannick Jauzion. The French pack quickly asserted their authority to give half-backs Francois Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra, making a seventh consecutive start together, the platform to unleash their dangerous three-quarters.
“You could see today that the half-backs have played a number of times together and you could see the forward pack feel comfortable with those two running the show,” said Ellis.
Italy coach Nick Mallett was encouraged by his side’s late rally but blasted his players for their defensive showing.
“It was the worst match we’ve played for a year,” he said. “We are pretty disappointed and our defence was very poor.
“A lot of players played their worst games today and when you do that against France they will score a lot of tries.
“They were made to look a lot better by our missed tackles but some of our players were well off their best.
“We have to be 100% to compete and we weren’t – but I was very pleased with the two tries we scored.”
For an hour the Italians were a shadow of the team that beat Scotland and pushed England all the way in Rome, and fly-half Craig Gower admitted the players were disappointed with their performance.
“You can’t miss those one-on one tackles against the French,” he said. “It wasn’t us. We didn’t have that enthusiasm that we had in the last couple of weeks, which is disappointing.
“Obviously we wanted to play better than that. We’ve just got to forget about that and concentrate on Wales.”
While the wooden spoon is still a mathematical possibility for Italy, only England stand in the way of a French Grand Slam but Mallett does not think Martin Johnson’s side will be able to stop them.
“I don’t think they’ll score tries that easily against England because we missed very simple tackles,” he said.
“But the French are a very good team, the best in this championship. They will win the Grand Slam,” he added.
France scorers – Tries: Harinordoquy, Marty 2, Andreu, Jauzion, Lapandry. Cons: Parra 5. Pens: Parra 2.
Italy scorers – Tries: Del Fava, Canavosio. Cons: M. Bergamasco 2. Pens: M. Bergamasco 2.
FRANCE: C Poitrenaud, M Andreu, D Marty, Y Jauzion, A Palisson, F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; T Domingo, W Servat, N Mas, L Nallet, J Pierre, T Dusautoir, J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.
Replacements: J Malzieu for Poitrenaud (64), M Bastareaud for Jauzion (69), D Yachvili for Trinh-Duc (58), D Szarzewski for Servat (40), JB Poux for Mas (40), S Chabal for Nallet (48), A Lapandry for Dusautoir (58).
ITALY: L McLean, A Masi, G Canale, G Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco, C Gower, T Tebaldi, S Perugini, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, J Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, A Zanni.
Replacements: R Bocchino for Gower (76), P Canavosio for Tebaldi (30), F Ongaro for Ghiraldini (66), M Aguero for Castrogiovanni (66), C Del Fava for Bortolami (55).
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).