France impress but World Cup sees replay of Twickenham TMO controversy
France launched their World Cup with a comfortable victory over Italy at Twickenham but the 32-10 victory was overshadowed by another high-profile blunder by bungling officials.
Just 24 hours after a near-carbon copy incident at the same venue involving England, wing Noa Nakaitaci had a 10th-minute try awarded and then disallowed moments before the conversion was to be taken by Freddie Michalak.
Referee Craig Joubert was given the green light by TMO Shaun Veldsman to give the score but after seeing a new, rear view, angle on the big screen he realised Nakaitaci had dropped the ball over the line and referred the decision for a second time, and on this occasion the right call was made.
Fiji scrum-half Nikola Matawalu had a try chalked off for the same reason in Friday's 35-11 defeat by England, and while the correct outcome was reached on both occasions, the uncertainty and confusion is doing little for the sport's reputation.
The incident had little impact on the outcome of the game, however, as France scored two tries to make a strong start to a group that also includes Ireland, 50-7 conquers of Canada earlier in the day.
Four penalties from Michalak and one from Scott Spedding established a 15-3 interval lead for France, who cruised further ahead when prop Rabah Slimani scored the first try in the 45th minute.
Nakaiticai made the initial break by surging down the left wing and he found hooker Guilhem Guirado in support.
Guirado cut inside and was halted just short of the line, but when the ball was recycled Michalak grubbered for Slimani to gather and touch down.
Italy, who have seen their captain Sergio Parisse ruled out of the entire World Cup through injury, hinted at a fightback when sustained pressure resulted in space for wing Giovanbattista Venditti to sprint home under the posts.
But as the final 10 minutes neared France struck again through veteran replacement prop Nicolas Mas who showed strength to force his way to the line and the presence of mind to touch the ball against the posts knowing he would not reach the whitewash.
Michalak converted to take his personal tally for the night to 19 points and conclude a fine start to the World Cup by his team who did enough to suggest they are genuine title contenders.