Australia recovered from a sloppy start to crush an under-strength France team 34-13 in Sydney on the weekend. The Wallabies, in only their second match under a new coach, Robbie Deans, struggled to find cohesion before finally clicking into gear and running in four tries in the last 45 minutes at Olympic stadium.
Matt Giteau, Nathan Sharpe, Rocky Elsom and Stirling Mortlock all crossed over as the Wallabies fell just short of their record 23-point winning margin over the French, the 35-12 World Cup final victory in 1999.
Deans said the Wallabies had shown some encouraging signs of improvement after their 18-12 victory over Ireland two weeks ago but they still had plenty to work on.
“That was an improved performance,” he said at a news conference. “We sustained our attack for longer.We made a few mistakes in the first half but showed a bit more patience in the second and were able to profit from that.”
France, which had to field a weakened team, with many top players having club commitments, scored a late consolation try through its debutant winger, Alexis Palisson, after Dimitri Yachvili landed two first-half penalties.
Coach Marc Livremont conceded that his inexperienced team had been outplayed, but he said he was proud of their effort.
“It was never going to be a case where we ran over the Wallaby forwards,” Livremont said. “But there is still some satisfaction because there was a lot of courage in defence. There are a lot of sore players in the dressing room right now.”
The match failed to reach great heights as both sides struggled to control possession in a first period punctuated by handling errors.
The second and final test is in Brisbane next week and will prove to be a warm-up for the Tri Nations for the Wallabies, and a game in which the French have nothing to lose, so we may well see an improved performance by them.