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Published: 17:23 | 6/2/16

Unimpressive France open with Italy win

Guy Noves' side hang on for victory

France had to dig deep to record an unconvincing win over Italy by 23-21 in the first match of the Six Nations.

In a tight first half, Virimi Vakatawa and Damien Chouly crossed over the line for France, but a Carlo Canna drop-goal and man-of-the-match Sergio Parisse's try ensured Italy remained in touch.

Canna then finished off a driving surge from Parisse to put the underdogs ahead.

France edged back ahead after Hugo Bonneval's try but after Italy retook the lead, they needed a superb late penalty from Jules Plisson to ensure new coach Guy Noves got off to a winning start.

Former Toulon boss Noves, 62, had promised to build a more entertaining French side from the one that went out in the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup and finished a disappointing fourth in the 2015 Six Nations.

With the former Toulouse supremo promising a return to traditional French flair, there was a greater willingness to try the unorthodox in attack Vakatawa with exemplifying this best, showing impressive skills and a sharp turn of pace on the wing to grab the game’s opening try.

However, while Noves will take encouragement from some of their attacking play, defensively they remained fragile throughout with Italy spurning several try chances in the first half in particular.

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Former England head coach Clive Woodward has called for the introduction of promotion and relegation to the Six Nations tournament.

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Former All Black Kieran Keane will join Connacht as head coach ahead of the 2017-18 season.

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