Noves: French fans can wait for flair
REACTION: Fans hoping to see some trademark French flair at next week's Six Nations clash at home to Wales will have to wait.
This was the message of coach Guy Noves, despite a heartening 40-18 win over Italy in Rome.
"We completed our mission but we also saw mistakes creeping in that have made a big difference between ourselves and certain teams we've struggled to beat," said Noves, whose Les Bleus side were only fifth last year.
"We dropped a lot of balls far too easily and lacked patience at times, when we all know that we're capable of doing better.
"I hope one day we'll have a team capable of being more clinical, and of holding the ball for as long as we need to."
France, who last won the tournament in their Grand-Slam winning campaign of 2010, have lacked their traditional flair for several years and Saturday's clash didn't threaten to reverse the trend.
After defeats to England and Ireland either side of a last-gasp win over Scotland, Noves's men were looking to redress the balance of a largely underwhelming campaign.
And they were handed the momentum after Italy squandered the advantage of seeing captain Sergio Parisse score after just three minutes with an error-strewn display peppered with dozens of missed tackles and ill-discipline.
The visitors soaked up the pressure as Gael Fickou scored their first try on 21 minutes, Virimi Vakatawa, Louis Picamoles and fullback Brice Dulin, three minutes from the end, all touching down in a far more convincing second half.
France's second win of the tournament also reaped a first bonus point that could even help them finish second if they beat Wales in Paris next week.
Noves added: "We're happy with the final result, especially as it brings the bonus point which, although it seems easy for some others to earn, is difficult for us."
But he wasn't alone in warning France are far off resembling the teams of the past whose free-flowing game had fans on the edges of their seats.
Fly-half Camille Lopez, who kicked 20 points, said Wales' performance in victory over Ireland on Friday (22-9) and in defeat to England (21-16) had left them facing a "very hard" clash next week.
"We have to be proud of winning, that's what we came for," said Lopez. "But when you see how the Welsh played against the English and the Irish, you know it's going to be very hard.
"We're also at the end of the tournament and we'll have one less day of rest (in comparison)."
On a more positive note for France was their dominance of Italy in the scrum, but for captain Guilhem Guirado, it was scant consolation.
"What you do well one day might not work the next," he said. "We're happy, but not totally satisfied with the match we played."
Although Parisse touched down early to spark celebrations for the hosts a week after running England close in a controversial 36-15 loss at Twickenham, Italy's error-strewn display saw the return of poor form at home.
Italy's failure to score tries in an opening period that had France under intense pressure inside their 22, as well as a missed tackles count (53-12) that handicapped the hosts, didn't help, said Parisse.
"We missed a lot of tackles and we conceded a lot of penalties in the scrum," said Parisse.
"We also spent a lot of time in the French 22, and didn't manage to touch over. When you concede 40 points, it's hard. We're not looking for excuses."
Italy's loss meant they will be assured of a last-place 'wooden spoon' even before meeting Scotland at Murrayfield next week.