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Fabulous France end Irish dream

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Tom Fordyce | 20:55 UK time, Saturday, 13 February 2010

As a method of settling an argument or three, it doesn't get much more convincing.

Grand Slam decider. Title showdown. A settling of soccer scores. This match was billed as many things, but by the end, all debates were off. France undeniably won the lot.

Valentine's weekend in Paris is traditionally a time for romance, for roses and chocolates and declarations of undying devotion. Someone should have told the players and supporters.

There was no love to be lost at a frozen Stade de France. It was passionate alright - the atmosphere and performances made hearts pound and scalps tingle - but this was hammer as much as amour, tenderising rather than tender.

Cliché has it that these two nations are united by a fondness for the romantic, for the poetic ahead of the practical. In the chill gloaming of a bitter February evening, when a Grand Slam is up for grabs and glory is there to be grasped, you could forgive either for preferring the prosaic instead.

Not France. This was irresistible rugby, an irrepressible blend of bulldozer and ballet. Ireland, for all their hopes, for all their 15-month unbeaten run and dreams of unprecedented consecutive Slams, were powerless to resist.

Morgan Parra
Morgan Parra had been critical of Ireland ahead of the match. Photo: Getty

Ireland had begun with fire and fury, pinching line-outs with light-fingered larceny and steaming into rucks with relish. Before France had found their feet, Gordon D'Arcy nearly stole the lead, producing a wonderful snapping break and kick ahead, a green streak slicing through the thin blue line.

Had the ball bounced kindly enough for his side to touch down, it might have been a different match. Instead, France took control as Irish errors and indiscipline left them impotent and frustrated.

Those who thought the Gallic and Gaelic might kiss and make up after the acrimonious fall-out from their last meeting in St Denis were in for a rude shock. Memories of the Henry horreur were still fresh in the memory; if we joked at kick-off that there would be massed appeals from the travelling fans for handball as soon as a Frenchman touched it, the laughter ended there.

Some saw an omen in the wintry weather. Revenge, after all, is a dish best served cold. In the frozen steppes of the stands, chants of "IRELAND! IRELAND!" battled against the air-horns and "Allez Les Bleus". Down on the pitch, however, France were scorching pretty patterns all around.

Francois Trinh-Duc was at the heart of everything, utterly in control. His distribution was near-perfect - witness the long pass that put Yannick Jauzion in for France's second try - his running silky and scything. His partner at half-back, Morgan Parra, was almost as impressive - kicking with dead-eyed accuracy, passing flat and fast, sniping and scragging around the fringes.

In front of them, the back row of Dusautoir, Ouedraogo and Harinordoquy dominated their opposite numbers. Skipper Dusautoir almost drove Ronan O'Gara into the ground; Harinordoquy continued where he had left off last week against Scotland.

Outside them, it was all about Mathieu Bastareaud. We knew he could bash and bullock, but on his club side's home turf he showed a deftness of hand that, in combination with his immense physical gifts, confirms the arrival of a major new talent. The last time Ireland won in Paris, Brian O'Driscoll used the occasion to announce his brilliance to the world. Ten years on, it was the turn of another 21-year-old centre to do the same.

What will hurt O'Driscoll and his team most is that they were, in part, architects in their own downfall.

What was it Parra had said about the Irish in the build-up? "They are cheating, but intelligently cheating. It's very well done." He was proved wrong, but not in the manner Ireland had wanted.

There was nothing intelligent or well done about the foul play from Cian Healy or Jerry Flannery. Healy's yellow card helped shift the impetus to the hosts. That Flannery's horrible kick at Alexis Palisson did not lead to a straight red is something that only referee Wayne Barnes can explain. It didn't so much stuff Parra's words back down his throat as serve them up with a garnish.

Irish fans
Ireland fans endured a tough afternoon after a good start at the Stade de France. Photo: PA

It was a night for cold hands, of course it was, but Ireland's buttery fingers put the slide under any chance they had of staging a grandstanding recovery. Off-load after off-load fell to the floor; knock-on followed knock-on with spirit-sapping regularity.

The post-match stats showed 19 Irish errors to France's 10. More than a quarter of the tourists' possession ended in an unforced mistake. Keith Earls summed it all up midway through the second half when, after doing the hard work of taking a steepling up-and-under, he then spilt the stationary ball as he tried to take a quick tap.

Ireland made twice as many passes as France - a staggering 184 to the hosts' 91. France were also forced into almost twice as many tackles, 111 to Ireland's 67. Big numbers, but not the all-important ones.

There were green-shirted glimmers. In addition to D'Arcy's early break, Ireland spent the last three minutes of the first half camped on the French try line. Drive after drive took them closer and closer, but unlike against England and Wales last season there was no one-inch try for O'Driscoll, and half-time came at 17-3 rather than 17-10.

Be in it at the break, Keith Wood had said this week, and you have a chance in Paris. His point was proven, but not in Ireland's favour.

There was time for David Wallace to dive over after an initial break from the old hand O'Driscoll. At 27-10 with 16 minutes to go, Irish optimism briefly flared, but Parra's penalty and Frederic Michalak's insouciant long-range dropper soon snuffed it out.

So Declan Kidney has at last lost a Six Nations match, at the seventh time of asking. Like the last Grand Slam winning coach, Warren Gatland, his winning run came to an end on French shores. It's still only two wins in Paris for Ireland since 1952.

He shouldn't be too disheartened - there's not many who could live with Marc Lievremont's men in this sort of mood. Snow was in the air, ice around the pitch, yet they produced a display to warm the cockles and muscles.

Along with the wonderful match earlier in the day in Cardiff, France's exhibition at last gave neutral fans of the old game something to smile about. When the French play like this, the world of rugby is a better place to be.

There were times in the autumn when the idea of rugby as a crowd-pleasing spectacle seemed to have died. It's heartening to see that there might just be life in the old patient yet.

Will France now go on to seal a first Grand Slam since 2004? It won't be as easy as their post-match lap of honour might have made it appear, but the biggest barrier has been cleared. The stage is theirs for the taking.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Awesome alliteration in this piercing piece, Tom.

    Could one say that Flannery's foul fury did little to lighten Henry's horreur?

  • Comment number 2.

    On the 606 board everyone is complaining about Ireland, but sometimes you just have to give credit to France they took their chances in attack and their defense was brutal and iron clad. The scoreline did not flatter France. The French looked very good...as they showed against SA in the Autumn and are hard to beat at home.

    Flannery can count himself lucky he didn't get a yellow or red for his Gazza like foul trip! All is not lost for Ireland. They are still a good side....they just had one of those days. I have nver seen a side drop so many pases and knock the ball on. Some of the can be attributed to the French defense and some to the fact that they had to chance their arm when they fell behind.

    Good old fashioned brutal test.

  • Comment number 3.

    France for the slam, no question.

    But the triple crown is very much up for grabs. If (and it's a big if) England can turn potential into performance, it's theirs for the taking. If not, it's Ireland's. I can see this Wales team going to Croke Park and coming home with anything other than bruises.

  • Comment number 4.

    This piece has too placed the poetic ahead of the practical, but it makes for an entertaining read!

    France will surely win at least the championship now.

  • Comment number 5.

    I enjoy most of your writings, Tom, but it IS possible to over-do the flowery prose.

  • Comment number 6.

    Tom, it seems you are an eternal student type with too much time on his hands. If I wanted to read a third or forth rate Wordsworth, I would have purchased a copy of some University Poetry Newsletter. Strangely, I want to read incisive comment on the pivitol match in this year's Six Nations! In the meantime, I guess I'll have too 'wander lonely as a cloud'. Leave it to the experts - please!

  • Comment number 7.

    This is the most cliché piece of sports writing I've read since the last time I read one of the BBC's many cliché articles. You are very lucky to get paid to write these articles so please keep in mind that the key is write something a little different.

    Please please please do not talk about the Football match. This is rugby, we have moved on. It is cheap and whorey to talk about the football match. Different sport, different players.

    Valentine's Day in Paris being romantic. Please please please stop it.

    Jerry "kick the man" Flannery kicked Alexis Palisson of CABrive not Vincent Clerc of Stade Toulousain. Please tell me you watched the game? Palisson is the young winger with the long hair, Clerc is the older winger with short hair, playing on the opposite wing incidentally. That is how wings work in rugby.

    You say that Parra almost played as well as Trinh-Duc. You do understand that the scrum half IS the man that enables the fly half to play well by producing quick accurate passes. Parra was essential to the French effort today and managed to back up his words with a very good performance, y compris the kicks at goal, something which he has improved at recently.

    Bastareaud is not an unknown quality making his first big impression. He was boshing people for Stade Francais two seasons ago and last season he smashed Jamie Roberts back in the tackle in the France Wales game. Another top noteworthy performance from him.

    You also mention the excellent French back row but forget that the French front row (easily the best in the Championship) of Domingo-Servat-Mas set the platform by putting the Irish pack on the back foot all gap as well as taking energy out of them. They are also excellent athletes and Servat always offers himself up for a pass.

    Last of all. Can we stop talking about grand slams!!! The winner doesn't have to win all the matches every year! "Irish dreams"-they were bound to lose some time, just as Wales' run of wins in the 6N was ended by their defeat in Paris last year. Now that Ireland have lost you are not obliged to start talking up France for the grand slam. Merci.

  • Comment number 8.

    Tom, I thought your prose struck a good balance between entertaining and informing.

    I'm often dismayed by the attitude some people have towards the various blogs on BBC Sport. I thought the idea of blogs as opposed to straight journalism was that they were a bit more informal, and to that end, gave the contributors a bit more personal freedom stylistically.

    As for the rugby, I for one am glad that this weekend provided such a spectacle, as after opening weekend I did begin to fear that the game had died a death. I just hope Italy vs England is more entertaining than it looks on paper...

  • Comment number 9.

    Iskander - watching all that French flair does strange things to a man...

    xpat73 - agreed on the dropped passes.

    Silk - do a spot of clarifying for me - are you saying Wales could do a job in Dublin or get turned over?

    rayegan, SbagliandoSiMigliora - hey, it's a blog, not a news story. Got to have some fun with it. Sbabetc - didn't I praise Parra too? Not sure I can apologise for talking about a French grand slam after that performance, either. Wasn't it good enough?

    LancashireSwinger - predictions for Sunday? I've got England by 12. Ish.

  • Comment number 10.

    Don't listen to anything bad anyone has said Tom! I mean if we're going to be picky, ray egan who asks you to "leave it to the experts" unfortunately makes his own mistake of spelling 'fourth' incorrectly... I hope you love the irony as much as I do!

    I believe that if people didn't want to read a poetic and intellectual piece of writing (instead of normal match report that can be found elsewhere), no one is forcing them to do so! It is a delight to read something like this and I might go as far to say that you should be payed double! ;)

    However you did get that bit wrong about Clerc being kicked by Flannery when in truth it was Palisson that was kicked :( but I kinda enjoy this mistake, makes me feel that people at the BBC are human and make mistakes too like me :D. By the way, if I were you Tom, I'd ignore the insulting paragraph written by SbagliandoSiMigliora, it's not worth your trouble... in fact, just ignore everything he/she has written!

    "You say that Parra almost played as well as Trinh-Duc. You do understand that the scrum half IS the man that enables the fly half to play well by producing quick accurate passes." Oh my my! Where to start!? Firstly, Tom, may I apologise on behalf of this incredibly arrogant individual who seems to be the expert on everything (cue an inordinate amount of sarcasm!), apart from grammar (you need to have a question mark at the end of the sentence, otherwise it's not a question, considering you started the sentence with "You do understand that..."). Secondly, the scrum half could be playing fairly 'ok' while the fly half might have incredible vision and ability to kick into space or change the flow/direction of the game even though the scrum half isn't on top form. Essentially, while the connection between scrum half and fly half is important, the fly half's performance is not completely controlled by the performance and quality of the scrum half.

    "Now that Ireland have lost you are not obliged to start talking up France for the grand slam." I'm sorry SbagliandoSiMigliora, France just beat Ireland, the grand slam winners of last years tournament... the team that hasn't been beaten in how many matches? I think it's only right that some mention goes to France possibly going all the way for the.........(dare I say it?)...... Grand Slam!!

    As I said earlier, don't listen to these negative and arrogant comments Tom, you did a great job; even though there were some mistakes in there, it makes me feel intelligent when I notice them :D and makes you seem more human rather than a robot, much better in my opinion!

  • Comment number 11.

    Roderick,

    France beat Wales (who had won the grand slam the previous season) in the third match of last season. They didn't go on to win the grand slam. In fact there doesn't have to be a grand slam winner every season. Why do we have to start talking about the grand slam winner right from the first round? The British media is obsessed by the need to talk about the grand slam, can we just stop it and enjoy the rugby?

    In today's game I thought the point about the speed of Parra's pass was apposite. How do you take advantage of your superiority in the forwards? (Apologies for lack of question mark beforehand, I type quickly) By getting the ball out as quickly as possible before the opposition defence have a chance to organise again. Parra wasn't just quick, he was excellent and sharp, not messing around at all. He was part of a very clear and well executed French game plan today. Trinh-Duc was very good today, but Parra was equally good.

    Incidentally I am not trying to be insulting. Sports journalists have an amazing platform to give their opinions, I have a right to ask for slightly less obvious thoughts just as you have a right to call me arrogant if you want to.

    Tom,

    yes I was over the top, I apologise.

  • Comment number 12.

    Is this Henry Winter from the Telegraph writing under a pseudonym? If not, he may sue...... I didn't think it possible that anyone could out-alliterate, out-metaphor and out-hyperbole that most pretentious of football correspondents.

  • Comment number 13.

    A good article on the whole, but to compare Bastareaud's performance with the O'Driscoll triple is a bridge to far! The man clearly has talent, but he's not right up there yet.

    France's desire was only matched by Ireland's inability... never seen a team with so much talent play so poorly... was it France that won the match or Ireland that handed it to them on a plate nicely rapped in a blue ribbon? A great victory for France, but not a great rugby match, you need 2 sides playing rugby for that!

  • Comment number 14.

    And re comments about Grand Slam talk, they are at it from day 1 in France as well, except here they believe France have an automatic right to the championship. I never thought British commentary was good until I came to France and witness on a regular basis the most crass bigoted commentary possible. I almost have to watch the games with no sound!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Running down the sin-bin clock by repeated scrum infringements looked a bit close to cheating to me.

  • Comment number 16.

    Dear Rouderick.

    Ahh.....Another student-type appears!

    It seems that 'the irony' is not the only thing you love? How fitting on this day that you and Tom should find one another - why not spend the day getting lost in each other's metaphors? Go on you rascals...crack open the Pop-Tarts and Scrumpy Jack and see who can fit the most punctuation in one sentence!

    Yours in correct spelling...

  • Comment number 17.

    Tom,
    I was traveling at the time but followed the game on live text (thanks BBC).
    Now when I read your blog and all the prose and red how you describe the game, then read the disparaging comments people make, it makes me wonder why they read at all.
    I think this was is a great piece of writing, not to mention that it was a great game, Dave Clark, yes many mistakes, but what did you expect on a freezing day like this one?
    Keep it up Tom!!

  • Comment number 18.

    Great blog, Tom...as it's a blog and not just a match report.
    I think a lot of credit should go to Marc Lievremont and his fellow coaches for bravely picking Parra and Trinh-Duc a couple of years ago when they were almost unknown to the rugby-watching majority, playing in the not so flashy clubs. Risky but paying off now... and young enough to improve even more before the next World Cup. Bastareaud, Medard and Palisson are more fine young players who have been thrown in at the deep end. Good work Marc.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm fed up with this hand business of Thierry Henry. Read up on the odd Ireland-Georgia game of February 2009 where Ireland benefited from a very odd penalty although the fault was Irish (Keane), confirmed by the linesman. There were other oddities during that game. http://www.charentelibre.com/article-12-irlande-georgie-retour-sur-un-penalty-fantome.html?id_article=297746

    Those who criticise Henry have probably never watched a football game. By the way, that's why I prefer rugger.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Ireland have only themselves to blame, we had at least 3 clear-cut chances to get a try before the French were out of reach. Mistakes cost us, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Flannery cited. Whilst we got Ferris back (and he looked immense), we appear to have lost Kearney who apparently left on crutches. Much better distribution to the back line this week, in fact I might even go so far as to say we played better than last week, even though we lost. Teams to play France though, take note. They have their weaknesses, namely the line-out. They may have dominated the score line but their line-out was poor. Still hoping we have a shot at the Championship, but 3 tries from 2 matches is a pretty poor return. Sort it out Declan!

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    The BBC seem fixated on how good Wales and Ireland are but after their first two games I am afraid they have both come up well short of what the BBC have expected.

  • Comment number 27.

    Branded a bunch of cheats and then thrashed on the pitch, thats gotta hurt.

  • Comment number 28.

    I have to say regardless of the criticism of the writing, I actually enjoyed it. It's all I enjoyed about this match. Flannery's tackle/kick was a kick in desparation and I am sure looked a lot worse than it really was, regardless it merited a yellow at least. I am stunned to put it mildly that us Irish gave such a gutless clueless and cowardly performance. We were beaten everywhere on the pitch. I am really hoping Kidney isn't another one dimensional manager, now his team have been found out, is there only one way they can play? Or has this been a sacrifice and the real team and real strategy is waiting in the wings for the world cup? I would like to think so but on this performance I doubt it.

  • Comment number 29.

    France, undeniably were the better team - but from a general standpoint, the chilling factor is just how far ahead of the rest of the tournament France can be. Between 2004 and 2009 Ireland lost 3 games in the tournament outside of playing against France - (2 against Wales in their grand slam years and 1 against England in 2008) - thats 4 Triple Crowns in 6 Years(Including the Grand Slam). A very respectable record, yet still France outclass them by a wide margin.

    Personally, the winning streak was bound to end at some point, and it would make sense for it to end in France, but it's grating just how bad Ireland played. Even had they played well, France were likely winners, but once the first 20 minutes were over, Ireland fell apart really.
    I suppose you could sum up most of the last decade of Irish Rugby with a freeze frame of the ball bouncing away from D'ary on the French try line.

  • Comment number 30.

    Very pleased with our game, outpowered and outhought ireland. Grand slam is a possibility, but I always felt the game in Cardiff would be the real test. I was less than impressed with Ireland, or England. Though the latter love to beat us so cant write them off.

    I do wonder though why before the R U G B Y game we saw higlights of Henry's handball against Ireland. Different sports and irrelevant to each other. Unless this is a new format so next time we play ireland you will show that savage kick ( a non-british ref would have surely sent him off, and we need non british refs for 6 nations and H cup).

    Not only that was cheating but it was vicious. Stop attemtping to stand for morality in sports when there isnt any in any country. Instead concentrate on getting the correct names of players, and correct pronounciation of names.

  • Comment number 31.

    Tom, don't change your style of writing, to every good journalist their own and I enjoyed your article. It translates perfectly what we French and surely Irish people are about: passion.

  • Comment number 32.

    By the way Ferris put his hands in Nallet's face, a la Dupuy. Should that be considered eye-gouging and therefore should we expect a 23 weeks ban? Well, I guess Nallet would have the honesty to tell the ERC comitee that eye-gouging never happened, that it was just a flat hand on the face, just like Ferris did during his citing against Dupuy. And then the ERC would still give Ferris a 23 weeks ban, for... the example. It seems the ERC took a stance against violence when the French players are at the wrong end. As a French supporter I am now waiting for them to take action when the players do not happen to be French. That would be reassuring for the fairness of the game especially when we are looking at 20+ weeks duration. Also, Flannery's ruthless action really spoiled my day. That one has should be banned for a long while under the new ERC standards. That sort of kick could have ended a player's career, as I have heard so many times before. Alexis Palisson was never given many chances to shine with les Bleus, but the few times he appeared on the pitch (like against the Wallabies two years ago) he always seemed to create something out of nothing. I hope he will get fit quickly. Palisson is without a doubt one of the sparks we are looking for at the back. If he was not fit to play on the wing, I would like to see Marc Andreu dubbed as the next Christophe Dominici. Although Benjamin Fall still has a point to prove in this competition, against Italy maybe.

  • Comment number 33.

    France were just superior in Paris.I think it was obvious even before the game started that France were athletically superior to Ireland,they looked bigger,stronger,faster and perhaps more importantly they looked hungrier for the win.Allez Les Bleues.

  • Comment number 34.

    'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs etc. etc.'

    If some of the Irish players had not lost theirs' on Saturday then Ireland would have only lost by less. France were just too good for Ireland, sin binning, or, no sin binning and are now looking like WC winners and although Irish heads are way down now, lets look at the Irish performance as a massive wake-up call.

    Kidney must now have a hard look at experienced players and some inexperienced ones who bottled out at crucial times: dropping balls from opposition kick-off.s, silly yellow card offences; offensive fouls that deserved red carding and are a disgrace to the game and the jersey.

    We have tried to get away with the front five frailties and succeeded in past games, however, this chicken was seen-off by the French rooster on Saturday and if this isn't a wake-up call for a look at Court, Ross and anybody else who has been knocking on the front row door, I don't know what is. If Court is not a tight head, how come the Irish scrum looked more secure after Hayes and Flannery were replaced?

    Half-backs need replacing. O'Gara is just a target behind a beaten pack and at the mercy of slow ball and even slower from O'Leary.We have the backs, let's use them. Its frustrating to see somebody with D'Arcy's talent being used just as a punchbag due to slow ball.

    Championship dreams are behind us now. So let's use the rest of the season to see if we can blood some of the newer players with a view to building for the 2011 WC, or, we will have a repeat of the last WC performance.

    Twickenham selection
    Kearney, if fit. If not who?? Earls????!!!!!!, or, look at the Wolfhounds for a genuine full back and not a make do and mend choice.
    Bowe, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Trimble
    Sexton and Springer/Reddan
    Court, Best, Ross
    Cullen O'Callaghan
    Wallace, Heislip, Ferris

    Best Irish players on Saturday: Heislip, Cullen and D'Arcy.


  • Comment number 35.

    This blog is symptomatic of so many I read on this website - it's all style over substance.

    There's no insight/ analysis/ authority. Sorry to put it so unpoetically, but I want journalists who can tell me stuff.

    I do hope the powers that be are reading the comments on this blog, because many others seem to share my frustrations.

  • Comment number 36.

    I didn't mind the writing in Tom's article, an entertaining and fair summary of why the Ireland rugby team lost in Paris.
    Like other people commenting, I'm annoyed at the many reference there were to the Republic of Ireland football team losing the World Cup play-off in Paris last year. Apart from the fact it was a different sport, the main reason it was not at all relevant was that the rugby team is supposed to be an all-island Ireland team, but the Henrygate affair concerned the Republic of Ireland football team only. When will the BBC, and many other people, learn that the Ireland rugby team is NOT the Republic of Ireland rugby team? On that note, why is the RoI flag used prominently in the opening titles to the BBC Six Nations coverage? Can't you use the IRFU flag or the four provinces flag instead?

  • Comment number 37.

    Re Humpty's comments on flags - fair enough comment - always irritates me as an Englishman that the Welsh don't get enough references and credit in cricket with it being the English and Welsh cricket board, not just English. At a guess I'd say it's probably just more people can associate with or find recognisable as "Irish", the RoI flag. No reason why that shouldn't change though.

    France looked strong to me, Ireland looked largely, and uncharacteristically weak. Every team has an off day, I was just disappointed to see a team with the talent and moreover experience of Ireland seemingly not have a response to the pressure of going a couple of tries down. Ireland will comeback without a doubt, but as so many of us predicted prior to the start, France are the team to beat in the NH at the moment.

  • Comment number 38.

    To Tom,
    How could you write a such a colourful piece on this match. I was hoping for an in depth analysis of ireland's nutritional habits and maul training routines. Anyway, I must be getting back to reading my enthralling (and 100% factual) Wisden cricket annual now.

  • Comment number 39.

    Glyn from the Alps - yup, Lievremont's blooding of so many younger players over the past two years is finally reaping its dividends. I remember watching the young half-backs two years ago, and they were mangled by England in Paris. Odds on the same happening this time around must be slim.

    WilyGilly - Flannery has indeed been cited. Looks worse every time you see it, that one.

    collie21 - I wouldn't be too harsh on Kidney. One loss in seven Six Nations matches isn't too sloppy. I liked how calm he was afterwards - "I don't get too excited when we play well and I won't get too down when we don't" - that's not a bad attitude for a coach to have.

    Conoros - would you make any changes for the England game in a fortnight? Agree with whackecarthy's XV?

    akaTommySmith - love the way you always go in hard like your namesake. None of those in-depth stats do anything for you? Or the lengthy analysis of where Ireland went wrong, France's key men, the turning-points in the match?

    HumptyDummy - I'll ask my TV collegues about that one. Being at the game I didn't see any TV coverage - did the combination of our references to Henry seem over the top from the outside?

    Westcountry_Boy - maybe we should both watch in black-and-white next time...

  • Comment number 40.

    Tom,

    In fairness to you and the Beeb it seemed as it every media outlet couldn't resist the 'revenge for Henry's handball' references, I don't think the BBC coverage of that point was disproportionate compared to other sources. My main gripe it that this was mentioned as an issue at all, by anyone, as it just didn't seem relevant.

    I'd rather you mentioned the flag thing to your TV colleagues, though I understand and accept stoicjoker's point that many people across the British isles see the RoI flag as an appropriate proxy for Irish rugby (no matter that it is factually incorrect). Just look at every pub with its Six Nation's pack as supplied by the brewery/management company, and you'll see an RoI flag.

  • Comment number 41.

    O'Leary probably needs to come out - If O'Gara is going to play, put Stringer back in, But I think Sexton/Reddan should get their chance at half back. Same lineup in the backrow, but with Sean O'Brien lined up as a replacement for Wallace, coming on for a decent stint in the second half.
    Cullen and O'Connell to stay in the second row, Ireland's lineouts have been fantastic in the last 2 games, arguably better than O'Connell/O'Callaghan have generally performed.

    On the wings, Bowe, with Trimble coming back in over Earls, - Earls didnt do himself justice there, and Trimble seems to be doing better. D'arcy/O'Driscoll to stay in the centre - Though Bod Really needs to cut down on his intercept attempts, it's grand to grab them against Fiji and Italy, but against France he only came close to getting one, the rest of the time the French simply ran through the gap.
    Full Back is an issue now - Earls possibly could do the job, though maybe putting Trimble in and sending Horgan in on the wing might be a better solution - Ultimately it depends on how well Trimble could do there.

    The front row is (still) Irelands main issue - Healy is a good player, but his tendency to pick up yellow cards cannot continue, his early tackle with Leinster in the Heineken cup final last year had a similar effect, though they were able to come back from it after. Despite the sin binning he probably deserves to keep the #1 spot, but he needs to stop getting yellow cards.
    Flannery is likely to be out for the rest of the tournament (rightly so really) so Best is the logical choice to come in at number 2.
    Hayes to keep the number 3 jersey (if he's fit) - he may be old, but he puts in better performances than Court generally does.

    At this point Ireland are still probably the second best team in the tournament, but things look pretty black for them currently. With regards to excitement level the match in Twickenham could be the best one to watch overall really. Since the 2003 World cup, Irelands record against France has been abysmal, but Englands record against Ireland has been equally so.

  • Comment number 42.

    France looking like WC winners? No chance!

 

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