It was hardly vintage France, but it did not need to be. Eight devastating second-half minutes were enough for Fabien Galthie's second-string side to overcome their early ponderousness to set up an Autumn Nations Cup final with England next Sunday, and inflict an eighth-straight defeat on a plucky, if limited Italy.
England's only defeat in 2020 came at the hands of Les Bleus but if lightning is indeed to strike twice, then Galthie will know that his dirt-tracker charges will need to be cleaner and more clinical than they were on Saturday night in Paris.
France's early ungainliness could perhaps be attributed to the solemn, emotive pre-match atmosphere created by the tribute to former wing Christophe Dominici, who tragically died on Tuesday aged 48.
There must have been the slight feeling, too, among the French starting XV, that they were simply keeping the jersey warm for somebody else. A disagreement - and subsequent agreement - between the French federation and the Top 14 meant that head coach Fabien Galthie was forced into making 13 changes to his starting XV from the side that beat Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend – that was never going to be particularly auspicious for his team's attacking cadence.
Although the hosts eventually ironed out those attacking kinks and creases, they looked disjointed. Their exceptional flanker, Sekou Macalou, shelled the ball twice under little pressure in the first half. While that was uncharacteristic, it typified France's early frustration, despite taking the lead through a Matthieu Jalibert penalty.
The Italians, after a period of floundering in international rugby, have made quite the habit of scoring silken tries of late; full-back Matteo Minozzi's sweeping effort against Scotland two weeks ago will live long in the memory. And so too will Carlo Canna's score on Saturday. Beefy centre Marco Zanon punched a hole, and from there fly-half Paolo Garbisi displayed some delightful wizardry. He shimmied past one defender, dummied another, before offloading inside to his centre, Canna. After a patient, pugnacious attack, it was no less than the visitors deserved.
If there were any doubts beforehand, France now knew they were in a game, as Italy searched for a first-ever win at the Stade de France, and the first over Les Bleus since 2013. But Galthie would have been pleased with his understudies' response. No 8 Anthony Jelonch, who fought tirelessly all evening, won a vital holding-on penalty as Italy had thoughts of extending their lead. One minute later, however, the visitors would surrender their advantage.
Full-back Brice Dulin's awkward grubber kick forced winger Jacopo Trulla to carry over his own line and touch down. From the subsequent scrum – which France held beautifully firm, providing a flawless attacking platform – centre Jonathan Danty barged through Garbisi and Trulla, his piston leg-drive taking him over and restoring France's lead.
That was the catalyst for France's scoreboard acceleration, but Italy's capitulation was engendered in part by Trulla's sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on, referee Nigel Owens brandishing the yellow card in his 100th Test. After that infringement, France stretched their legs to devastating effect.
Gabin Villiere scored a spectacular solo try on his debut, peeling intrepidly round the back of a lineout after a steal by lock Killian Geraci, the Toulon wing's explosive pace taking him away from the startled Italian defence.
When scrum-half Baptiste Serin – of all people – dotted down from the back of a slick French driving maul, the game was all-but done. France broke clear immediately from the ensuing restart, Dulin shrugging off a couple of tacklers before setting Teddy Thomas free. The wing was never going to be caught, and neither were France. Macalou's try at the death following typical French offloading ensured a confident finish before their final.
France have only beaten England twice in the same calendar year once in history, back in 2007. Dominici played in the second of those two victories; if his international descendants could mirror his feat in 2020, then that would be some tribute.