Rugby Union

France head coach Guy Noves saw his side edge out Italy in their Six Nations opener.

Coach Guy Noves admits France have room for improvement

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New France head coach Guy Noves accepts his squad have plenty of hard work ahead after they produced a late comeback to finally see off Italy 23-21 in the opening match of the RBS 6 Nations in Paris.

Heading into the last five minutes at Stade de France, the Italians led only for Jules Plisson's long-range penalty to deny Jacques Brunel's side a famous victory, with Italy captain Sergio Parisse also missing a drop-goal attempt in added time.

Noves, who took over from Philippe Saint-Andre after the World Cup, admitted his men had made it tough for themselves in an encounter before which the stadium had been through a ramped-up security operation following the terrorist attacks of November 13 in the French capital.

"Despite a very short training period ahead of the game, we managed to win and with a very refreshed team, so the boys showed a lot of enthusiasm," he said at a news conference.

"However, we did not always play with a clear head and there were no rhythm changes.

"We did not play fast enough. I had the feeling that players aged between 20-29 were actually 35, so we will have to talk about this.

"It is good to take risks, but you have to be intelligent too, that is to find the balance between the will to play and managing the game."

Despite the manner of what was in the end a somewhat fortuitous victory, there were still some positives for Les Bleus, notably the try-scoring debut of Fiji-born wing Virimi Vakatawa, while Damien Chouly and Hugo Bonneval also went over.

Noves said of Vakatawa, who is a regular in the Sevens code: "He lived up to our expectations, shook his opponents and did not overthink it for his first (France) game. I hope he will continue to improve."

It was confirmed post-match that France number eight Louis Picamoles suffered a tear to his right thigh which forced him off during the first half, and will rule the Northampton Saints-bound player out of the next match with Ireland.

Italy coach Brunel hopes the performance of his squad will give them something to build on for the rest of the campaign, which continues in Rome against England on February 14.

"We showed character and that we have an identity. We wanted to be a tough opponent and we managed that," he said.

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