By Alasdair Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) - France started their Six Nations campaign on Saturday with a ruthless 50-10 victory against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, which despite the weakness of the opposition confirmed their credentials in the championship.
Fabien Galthie's side scored seven tries with scrumhalf Antoine Dupont once again living up to expectations with four assists, a performance only achieved in the Six Nations by his compatriot Frederic Michalak in 2006 and England's Austin Healy in 2000.
France, who had not scored 50 points against Italy since 2009, next face Ireland in Dublin, for a test that will undoubtedly be tougher but for which they are fully equipped.
"It's an important victory for us, it's a good one to start the championship," said winger Gabin Villiere.
"Our performance gives us a lot of confidence for the Ireland game although we have to keep our feet on the ground. We have to get back to work. We can't wait for next Sunday," added captain Charles Ollivon.
"We're going to need a big performance there, we know it's going to be different. We will have to be more disciplined, to be better in winning the ball. It is going to be a capital game."
Since Galthie took over at the beginning of last year, France have won nine of their 11 tests, finishing second in the Six Nations and losing to England in the Autumn Nations Cup final after fielding a reserve side.
"We've scored seven tries, we were efficient but there are still things to work on," said Galthie, who noted that France had let their guard down somewhere between the 60th and the 70th minutes, conceding a try.
"Dublin is going to be different. We managed to give our finishers (replacements) some time to play, which is good for them to acquire experience.
"We conceded that try but we have the potential."
France won their last encounter against Ireland, in last year's Six Nations, but they have not prevailed in Dublin since a 26-22 victory in an international test in 2011.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)