Wales and Italy claim wins in Women's Six Nations
By Mark Crellin
Last Updated: 28/02/16 8:07pm
France suffered their first defeat in this year's Women's Six Nations tournament when they were beaten 10-8 by Wales in Neath.
The result means unbeaten England lead the way after three rounds of the tournament, two points clear of France and Wales.
And England will next face Wales in a pivotal showdown at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday March 12 (live on Sky Sports 5).
Having lost their tournament opener in Ireland, Wales made it two wins in a row with a hard-fought victory over France at The Gnoll.
And the Welsh have also confirmed their place for the 2017 World Cup, because they cannot now be overtaken by Scotland.
The hosts made a superb start, taking the lead after just three minutes when full-back Dyddgu Hywel received the ball on the 22 and ran a lovely line to touch down.
France winger Caroline Boujard then dropped a kick when looking certain to score, but the visiting forwards were impressive, and No 8 Safi N'Diaye scored a pushover try on the quarter hour.
However, brave Welsh defending held up the French pack on the line on a pair of occasions, meaning it was 5-5 at half-time.
Wales lost Shona Powell-Hughes to the sin-bin just before the break, though, and France went in front five minutes after the interval, courtesy of an Audrey Abadie penalty.
But Wales then reclaimed the lead with a wonderful try, sparked by a superb run out of defence from Bethan Dainton, and finished when prop Megan York raced down the touchline after receiving from Elen Evans.
France threw everything at the Welsh in the final 20 minutes but the hosts refused to buckle and held on to secure a first win over the French since 2008.
In Sunday's other match, Italy opened their account for the tournament with a 22-7 victory over winless Scotland.
The two strugglers met at the Stadio Arcoveggio and Italy claimed an early lead when player-of-the-match Melissa Bettoni went over from close range.
And the other Italian prop, Elisa Cucchiella, also scored a first-half try, diving across the line after the hosts had moved the play to the right.
Francesca Schiavon added the conversion and also kicked a first-half penalty, meaning Italy were 15-0 up at the break.
Manuela Furlan then scored the third Italian try of the day, Schiavon adding the conversion once again to make the scoreline 22-0, which was somewhat harsh on the Scots.
The visitors responded almost immediately, centre Lisa Thomson powering through to score a try, which Lana Skeldon converted.
However, although Scotland fought hard to get back into the match, that proved to be the end of the scoring.