Italy will go to New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2021 with renewed confidence after they managed to turn the tables on France and win their final warm-up game.
France were comfortable 21-0 winners when the sides met in the first encounter in Nice a week ago but the return match in Biella on Friday night was a different story with the Azzurre coming out on top by 26-19.
Italy put the disappointment of being without injured captain Manuela Furlan behind them to score four tries and beat Les Bleues for only the fifth time in history.
Converted tries from Madoussou Fall Romane Menager had handed France a 14-0 lead inside the first half an hour.
But Italy responded magnificently to score two tries of their own before the break, through Melissa Bettoni and Michela Sillari. With one of the conversions missed, they trailed by two points heading into the second half.
However, Italy soon found themselves in front when Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi crossed the line in the 45th minute and Beatrice Rigoni added the extras.
Melissande Llorens levelled the scores with France’s third try in the 69th minute but Italy turned on the forward power in the closing stages and were rewarded with a game-clinching penalty try with five minutes to go.
The victory sends Italy above USA to fifth in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, while France drop down to fourth with Canada replacing them in third.
Italy are in Pool B at Rugby World Cup 2021 and start their campaign against USA, the side they have leapfrogged in the rankings, on 9 October.
The day before, France have the honour of kicking off the tournament when they take on Pool C opponents South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland.