After years trundling around with Marc Lievremont’s confrontational style of management a nation rejoiced on Saturday as new coach Philippe Saint-André steered them to a more traditional display.
And worryingly for Ireland, he believes they need to go for Ireland’s throat.
“It’s a first victory. You have to have a smile,” said Saint-André.
“As a coach, you seek perfection but today you saw great defence, good discipline and we even scored four tries. On the negative side, we should gain more possession, we lacked aggression, especially at the beginning. It’s good to win but there is a lot of room for improvement.
“When we upped the pace, we were better in attack and in defence.
“We cannot let the Irish play like they want because they will score when they have the opportunity. We will have to take them by the throat.”
Les Bleus scored tries through Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana, allied with 10 points from Dimitri Yachvili’s boot, with Italy managing just a drop-goal and two penalties from Kris Burton, and a third penalty by Tobias Botes.
While Italy managed to keep pace with the home side for most of the game, and displayed a willingness to offload and attack out wide, France cut loose in the final 20 minutes to exorcise the demons of last year’s loss to the same opposition in Rome.
Italian coach Jacques Brunel felt his side learnt a valuable lesson. Despite dominating possession and territory for large spells, once again they could not convert them into points.
“In the first half, we kept a lot of possession and took the initiative, and dominated territory, and were only 15-6 down at half time,” said Brunel.
“But we made two mistakes in the scrum, which didn’t go well, and we paid a heavy price.”
“We showed a good spirit on the pitch, always trying to attack and put the French on the back foot. It’s sometimes difficult to find the words to explain the missed passes and everything else that went wrong.”
Scorers for France: Tries: A Rougerie, J Malzieu, V Clerc, W Fofana. Cons: Yachvili (two). Pens: Yachvili (two).
Scorers for Italy: Pens: Burton (two), Botes. Drop: Burton.
Yellow card: Q Geldenhuys (Italy)
FRANCE: M Medard; V Clerc, A Rougerie, W Fofana, J Malzieu; F Trinh-Duc, D Yachvili; V Debaty, W Servat, N Mas, P Pape, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, L Picamoles.
Replacements: D Szarzewski, J-B Poux, Y Maestri, I Harinordoquy, M Parra, L Beauxis, M Mermoz.
ITALY: A Masi; G Venditti, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L McLean; K Burton, E Gori; A Lo Cicero, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni, C Van Zyl, Q Geldenhuys, A Zanni, R Barbieri, S Parisse (capt).
Replacements: T D’Apice, L Cittadini, M Bortolami, S Favaro, F Semenzato, T Botes, G Canale.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).