France warm up for All Blacks clash with comfortable win over Georgia
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Bordeaux, France - Winger Damian Penaud scored twice as France outclassed Georgia with a 41-15 win in Bordeaux on Sunday, less than a week before facing New Zealand.
Les Bleus host the All Blacks next Saturday in a highly-anticipated rehearsal for the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Home coach Fabien Galthie made five changes from last weekend's win over Argentina and handed Toulouse winger Matthis Lebel a Test debut.
The visitors' head coach Levan Maisasvhili named 14 players in his matchday squad who have contracts with French clubs as they started their two-match November campaign.
More than 39,000 fans welcomed France back to Bordeaux for the first time since August 2011 on a grey autumnal day.
Home full-back Melvyn Jaminet made up for an early miss by opening the score with a simple shot at goal before the Lelos were down a man as Brive fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze was shown a yellow card for an intentional knock-on.
Despite the disadvantage, Lyon full-back Davit Niniashvili slotted a penalty to make it 3-3 after 21 minutes in front of Georgia's Parisian-born president Salome Zourabichvili.
Niniashvili's effort sparked Galthie’s side into life and were awarded a penalty try two minutes later as Lyon flanker Beka Saginadze joined Abzhandadze in the bin for collapsing a rolling maul.
Abzhandadze returned to the field but France maintained control as Matthieu Jalibert, who plays his club rugby at the city’s Bordeaux-Begles, glided over from short range for his maiden Test try and Penaud scored from Gael Fickou’s inside pass.
Jaminet's extras took the score to 24-3 at the break with France looking comfortable but making unforced errors against the side ranked 12th in the world.
The hosts were given a slight scare after 48 minutes as Abzhandadze's club and Test half-back partner Vasil Lobzhanidze found a way over to make it 24-10.
But Les Bleus hooker Peato Mauvaka crashed over from a rolling maul soon after Lobzhanidze's try before Jalibert was moved to full-back, centre Romain Ntamack to fly-half with midfielder Jonathan Danty came on for goal-kicker Jaminet.
Centre Fickou, the most-capped player in the home squad, took over the armband with Antoine Dupont off for debutant Maxime Lucu after an hour, saving the Toulouse scrum-half less than a week from the All Blacks Test.
With a healthy lead Galthie's side took the foot off the pedal and Georgia pressed into France territory before winger Akaki Tabutsadze dotted down in the corner to make it 31-15 with a quarter of an hour left.
Penaud’s second try of the game came with seven minutes left as Ntamack combined well with Fickou to free up space on the right wing as heavy rain fell near the Atlantic coast.
There was enough time for Mauvaka to also to score second but France failed to match their thumping 64-7 win over Georgia in 2007, in the countries' only previous meeting.
France's focus now turns to hosting New Zealand next weekend after the All Blacks were beaten by Ireland on Saturday.