Rugby World Cup: France surge into semi-finals with second-half demolition of Italy

France have become the first team to book their spot in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, defeating Italy 39-3 at Northland Events Centre, Whangārei.

In a clash of the fourth and fifth seeded side, France overcame a slow start to power away in the second half, leaving Italy - who'd made history by reaching the quarter-finals of a World Cup for the first time - in their wake.

Ahead by just seven points at halftime, France scored 29 points without reply in the second, showcasing why they'd been placed among England and hosts New Zealand as pre-tournament teams to watch.

France's Joanna Grisez scored a hat-trick against Italy.
France's Joanna Grisez scored a hat-trick against Italy. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Winger Joanna Grisez was the star of the victory, scoring three of France's five tries, all while ensuring their own line wasn't breached.

France's margin of victory could have been even greater, were it not for two disallowed tries to fullback Emile Boulard, and No.8 Charlotte Escudero.

As the first victorious quarter-finalist, France will face the winner of Saturday's second quarter-final, as the Black Ferns host Wales at the same venue.

Despite a fast start to the first quarter-final of the World Cup - where France opened the scoring in the third minute through winger Joanna Grisez - both sides found points hard to come by in the opening spell.

More than half an hour passed, before Italy hit back through the boot of Michela Sillari, only for France to finish the first half as the superior side.

With time already up in the first half, Italy winger Maria Magatti was shown a yellow card, after playing the ball on the ground, and reducing Le Azzure to 14 at the start of the second half, and seeing Caroline Drouin give France a 10-3 lead at the break.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, though, Italy held off French advances at the start of the second half, with only another Drouin penalty adding to the score before it was back to 15 on 15.

But a penalty try on the hour mark saw Italy reduced to 14 again, this time seeing prop Silvia Turani sent to the bin, as France took complete control.

Four minutes later, France had another through replacement hooker Laure Troye, on hand to score from the back of a lineout drive to go ahead 27-3.

Not long after that, Grisez had her second thanks to an overlap on the right flank, and then completed her hat-trick in the final 10 minutes, grabbing her third with a runaway effort for France's fourth try of the second half.

France will meet either New Zealand or Wales at Eden Park next Saturday, while England and Australia, and Canada and USA will contest the second semi-final on Sunday.

France 39 (Grisez 3, Touye, penalty tries; Drouin 2, Queyroi conversions; Drouin 2 penalties) Italy 3 (Sillari penalty)

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