France 30 Italy 10
Centre Wesley Fofana scored one try and helped create another as France beat Italy 30-10 to further boost its chances of winning the Six Nations title following last weekend's dramatic victory against England.
A turgid first half riddled with poor kicking ended 9-3. But France came alive at the restart, running in three tries inside the first 15 minutes through burly No. 8 Louis Picamoles, Fofana and a debut try from left-winger Hugo Bonneval, whose father Eric Bonneval helped France win three Five Nations titles.
Right-winger Tommaso Iannone got a late converted try for Italy.
After the humiliation of last year's wooden spoon, France's confidence is seemingly restored ahead of the trip to play title-holder Wales in two weeks' time.
After losing on its last two visits to Rome, the French were determined to make amends at Stade de France.
But in chilly, somewhat windy conditions, only the sharp bite of the weather prevented the fans from falling asleep in a scrappy opening half bereft of attacking rugby, and where four out of 10 kicking opportunities were taken.
France squandered the early ones, with scrumhalf Jean-Marc Doussain missing two penalties - an easy one from the left, a longer one from the right - and flyhalf Jules Plisson going wide with a dropped goal attempt 30 meters out.
Italy got its first chance of the match when lock Pascal Pape was penalized for an offside and center Gonzalo Garcia's penalty from just over the halfway line fell short.
Plisson's neat kick into the corner gave France the chance to pressure Italy in the lineout, but Italy held firm as France's pack camped on the line. With the forwards' battle pretty even, Italy had another chance to take the lead midway through the first half, but this time Garcia's kick from nearly the same distance sailed wide.
After fullback Brice Dulin was held up near the line, Doussain slotted over from just in front of the posts.
Moments later, Italy leveled when flyhalf Tommaso Allan nailed a three-pointer from 20 meters out, but then missed a chance to put the Italians ahead from similar range after France was penalized again for some careless defending.
After Italy collapsed the scrum, Doussain's wobbly kick from the left cannoned over off the right post and he landed a better effort to put France 9-3 up at the break.
Then, the tries came thick and fast as Italy capitulated.
Picamoles burst out of a rolling maul and was brilliantly tackled by left-winger Leonardo Sarto close to the line. He then hauled himself up before planting the ball on the line, and the try was awarded following a video replay, with Doussain getting the extras.
With Italy regrouping, Fofana showed once again why he is one of the most promising centers in world rugby. Picking up a loose ball following a ruck, he broke two tackles with brute strength before sprinting down the blindside for another converted score.
The third try was well worked.
Fofana's scorching pace took him clear from midfield, and he fed right-winger Yoann Huget, who in turn popped a simple pass to give Bonneval a try in the left corner. Doussain, by now finding his kicking boots, landed a tricky conversion to make it 30-3.
Italy was held up near the line three times as it sought a consolation try, and as tempers frayed, props Rabah Slimani and Michele Rizzo were sent off after butting heads in a maul.
Italy's persistence finally paid off when Iannone scurried into the left corner.