Rugby World Cup Pool D: Inconsistent France to shine against Azzurri


France are the most unpredictable team in world rugby; they have masses of ability but also the capability to shoot themselves in both feet with a double-barrel shotgun.

Les Bleus haven’t been handed the easiest of starts at the Rugby World Cup, however, facing a talented Italian outfit first in Pool D, though Coral still make them firm odds-on 1/12 favourites for a winning start here.

Narrow victories over England and Scotland have seen French form improve, but their poor Six Nations showing do rather stick out in the mind. That could make opponents the Azzurri well worth a shot at 6/1 to win.

Wasteful kicker Morgan Parra has put Les Bleus’ inconsistent year down to a rather self-deprecating reason. “The problem is we’re French,” he said, and that attitude hardly serves this side well. It’s also reflected in France’s odds of World Cup glory being a 16/1 shot.

Injury to the influential Wesley Fofana is another obstacle that Les Bleus must get over, but they have lost just twice to Italy in 17 meetings. The Azzurri have raised their game to beat fellow Rugby World Cup finalists Fiji, Samoa and Scotland, but they are just three favourable fixtures in the last 25 internationals.

When France last faced Italy, Phillipe Saint-Andre’s men destroyed their hosts in Rome, running in 29 points and conceding none themselves. The handicap here runs at 17 and backing Les Bleus to overcome that deficit at 10/11 looks sure to bring its rewards in their opener.

Azzurri struggles to rack up points has been a long-standing issue, as have their slow starts. Jacques Brunel’s men haven’t led after 40 minutes in their preceding nine matches; even when they beat the Scots they were behind at half-time, so backing France to be ahead at the mid-way stage and at the final whistle at 1/3 appears nailed-on.

Fijian convert Noa Nakaitaci has made a sharp start to life in a France shirt, running in two tries in just four outings. He scored in their final warm-up game against Scotland, and he looks well-priced at evens to go over at anytime.

Thierry Dusatoi crossed at the last Rugby World Cup, though holds longer odds of 9/2 to do so again in this Italian encounter. The Azzurri’s main threats are Leonardo Sarto (3/1 anytime) and Giovanbattista Venditti (10/3), but a healthy French victory is assured.

Coral’s top tip: Back Les Bleus to win by 16-20 points, and be rewarded with nifty odds of 9/2.

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