France coach Jacques Brunel hailed his side’s spirit after they ended an eight-game winless run with victory against Italy on Friday night.
Mathieu Bastareaud starred on his return to the side, scoring one of the home side’s three tries in a 34-17 win, with Paul Gabrillagues and Hugo Bonneval getting the others.
France were without a number of first-team regulars in Marseille after Brunel dropped several players for “inappropriate behaviour” after the defeat by Scotland in Edinburgh last time out.
But Brunel’s side coped well in their absence and were worthy winners against Conor O’Shea’s visitors.
Quoted on www.sixnationsrugby.com, Brunel said: “It wasn’t easy, the first half was very hard.
“We lacked accuracy near the line, no doubt because there was so much desire that we confused haste and speed.
“They (Italy) have shown some interesting things. They have a slightly different defensive set-up but you can tell they want to impose themselves and create something with the ball. Perhaps a bit less today because France had more of the ball. I’m convinced that Italy are on the right path.”
Italy were ahead early in the first half after a 10th-minute penalty try cancelled out Gabrillagues’ unconverted score.
France took a four-point lead into the break after Maxime Machenaud kicked two penalties to make it 11-7.
The hosts put the game out of Italy’s reach in the second half after scoring two tries without reply before Matteo Minozzi got a consolation try for O’Shea’s men at the end.
The Irishman was proud of his charges despite the loss.
He said: “We knew before the game that it would be a very hard game against a good team under a lot of pressure.
“After about 50 minutes it was 14-10, they had some chances and so did we. I thought that we were close and we could put them under pressure in front of their fans. But the match changed.
“The spirit and the defence against Bastareaud and every runner is difficult. So I’m proud.
“We have so many players lacking experience and they have learned so much from these months but we want to win matches.
“I am proud because I saw them play and learn but they have to improve their discipline.”