France and Wales now have nine points apiece at the top of the table. France are in the lead with a points difference of +42 to Wales’s +6. Next up in this tournament, in two weeks’ time, we have Italy v Ireland, Wales v England and France v Scotland. See you soon for more. Bye!
The Ireland head coach Andy Farrell speaks: “It’s very hard ... you tend to over-analyse, you need to take stock and calm down a bit ... you can take a lot of positives but we had opportunities to win the game there, and we came up short in the end. I thought we managed the game really well in the first half ... even though the rain stopped, it was still very wet, and obviously the French like to come with a lot of line speed ... We was doing very well set-piece wise, but we just lost our way a little bit in the third quarter ... some of that was a bit soft from us.
“They [the Ireland team] put their bodies on the line for their country, but it still hurts to lose that game.”
The France team manager Raphaël Ibañez talks to ITV - “We’re obviously very pleased with the win. It was a hard-fought win away from home, so it’s a big relief for the boys. Our defence was outstanding throughout the whole game ... it showed our team spirit and our character was there ... of course there were a few mistakes, and Ireland showed a lot of bravery, but in the end it’s fantastic for us to get the win.
“We take it step by step. We’ll enjoy the win tonight, regroup as a team, and we’ll get ready for the next challenge.”
The Ireland captain Henderson speaks: “Massively frustrating ... we had the opportunities to go and do it. When you’re not taking those opportunities, especially at home, you’re not where you need to be ... we’ve got to go away, review what we’ve been doing. We’ve got a two-week break now, a chance to get away and refresh our heads now, come back and make sure we’re really tuned in to fix those mistakes.
“When they go down to 14 men, you have to capitalise in this game, you’ve got to punish people for having ill-discipline, and we just didn’t do that. That was our opportunity to get up in the game, but what was it, two points we ended up down by? A penalty in there or a try, and that’s a different-looking second half.”
Henderson is asked where the two defeats leave Ireland: “You’ll have to do the maths on that one ... It leaves us with our backs against the wall, massively ... as I said, we need to review what we’ve done, and make some pretty quick fix-ups.”
Full-time! Ireland 13-15 France
France have enough in the end for their first win in Dublin for a decade. It means two defeats to open this year’s Six Nations campaign for Andy Farrell’s men. Kelleher’s second-half try gave Ireland plenty of hope, but apart from that slightly freak effort, Ireland could not create enough in the face of a seriously impressive France defence. At the other end of the pitch, Dupont was outstanding (again) and Jalibert was none too shabby either at No 10. Dylan Cretin’s stupidity, as he gave up a late penalty for a needless push, rivalled Gareth Davies’ ‘brain fart’ for Wales against Ireland last week (when he gave the ball away with a grubber kick with the clock ticking down).
That gave Ireland a late lifeline, but the French tackling and defensive shape was just too strong. Ireland may have a few gripes about their defending, especially for the first try, but France are just so impressive in attack. They look well-set for the rest of the tournament playing that kind of rugby. The Shaun Edwards effect continues to help them stay disciplined in defence, and they have a ludicrous amount of talent in attack. One or two offloads can blow their opponents wide open.
80 min: Clock in the red. Ireland have the ball, going through the phases but only around halfway ... and France are holding firm and even driving them back.
78 min: Dupont makes a darting run, then puts up a high kick, and Cretin, fittingly, gives away a mindless penalty for a push while the ball is in the air. Ireland have a penalty and now have the ball, at least.
77 min: Thomas claims a high kick in style. Ireland can’t get the ball ... but now they can - Lowe and Gibson-Park make inroads down the left, but Gibson-Park has a foot in touch, and France will have a lineout on halfway. Into the final couple of minutes.
75 min: Pressure on Ireland, with another French attack into the 22, but some fine spoiling work in defence brings an Irish put-in at the scrum. Two points in it but they have no field position right now.
72 min: Dupont embarks on a strong, sniping run deep into the Irish 22 and then offers up an excellent, sympathetic pass for his teammate Le Roux. Dupont really is a joy to watch and appears to be in the form of his life. He burst through no fewer than three tackles on that run and grabbed the initiative for his team.
70 min: Anthony Jelonch and Damian Penaud are off, Dylan Cretin and the aforementioned Thomas on for France now. Into the final 10 minutes. Ollivon has gone down with cramp. And France have a kickable penalty ... but Jalibert hits the post! So close! Ireland can still win it with a penalty of their own. It wasn’t the hardest penalty for Jalibert, he drew it right to left, and it hit the left-hand post. Galthié looks disgusted up in the stands.
66 min: Lowe crashes a kick out on the full and hands the initiative back to France. Thomas is on for the visitors now. He’s immediately into the action, as Jalibert spins a pass to him on the right wing, but it’s slightly behind him, and Thomas spills it. Ireland have a scrum in their own 22.
Penalty! 64 min: Ireland 13-15 France (Byrne)
A brilliant kick under pressure, and from some distance too. Straight through the posts. It’s a two-point game as we go into the final 15 minutes. Game on!
63 min: Ireland have more momentum now as they crash repeatedly into contact and start to make inroads, albeit around halfway. France concede a penalty for a high hit, and Ireland will go for the posts, with Byrne calling for the kicking tee. This is a long kick though, close to halfway - 44metres from goal.
60 min: Into the final quarter, and Ireland suddenly have every chance of turning this match around. Ringrose has the ball in hand close to halfway, and is driven back. Stander charges into contact again. The French defence holds firm. The only worry for Ireland is that their try materialised from a bit of a lucky bounce of the ball. They need to create an opening.
56 min: Try! Ireland 10-15 France (Kelleher)
Ronan Kelleher, fresh off the replacements bench, throws in at the lineout. Ollivon tries to steal the ball, and it bounces out of the lineout and ends up back in Kelleher’s hands. He sprints over in the corner and Ireland are right back in it! Ross Byrne - another replacement - smacks over a really excellent conversion from an angle. France had a stranglehold on this match, but Ireland are right back in it.
54 min: Try! Ireland 3-15 France (Penaud)
France storm over the Irish line in the corner on the right wing. It’s another superb score. Fickou crunches into contact, into the 22, after a scrum. Space opens up on the right, Jalibert flings a pass off his left hand, Dulin snaffles it, and despite the brave efforts of Ed Byrne to make a tackle, Penaud is on hand to grab a little pop pass from Dulin and flop over in the corner. The conversion is missed, but Ireland are deeper in trouble. Tadhg Furlong is on for Andrew Porter.
50 min: Ringrose sends a good low kick behind the French defence, on the right wing. But there is a lovely step by Villière, sporting a bright red scrum cap, which relieves the resulting pressure on the visitors. The clock is ticking down and Ireland need to start making more of an impact in attack if they are going to avoid falling to a second defeat.
47 min: Possession for Ireland around halfway. Gibson-Park tries to prompt his forwards to smash into contact, which they do, but eventually Lowe opts to kick, and he pins France back with a good strike for touch into the 22. Ireland are soon penalised for closing the gap at the lineout. Ireland are competing well, but France just look that much more dangerous when they have the ball.
44 min: Penaud spots space behind the Irish defence, and sends through a clever low kick, but Lowe has time to deal with it. France get the ball back, and Penaud has a dart, this time with the ball in hand. Dupont then produces a stunning no-look pass to Alldritt, appearing to have eyes in the back of his head, and Alldritt needs no second invitation to go bursting through the defensive line. France’s attacking machine is looking increasingly well-oiled, and Ireland have their work cut out.
41 min: A break in play after Healy and Henderson clash heads when trying to tackle Alldritt. That looked nasty. They both look to be cut, and will both need to go off at least temporarily. Dillane and Ed Byrne are on as blood replacements.
Second half kick-off!
Jalibert gets the second half under way for France. Lowe clears with a kick, but it flies off the side of his boot, and France have a lineout in a good spot. It’s very, very nearly a second try for France as Marchand bursts through nearly under the posts. He is tackled, just, and Dupont grabs the ball and tries to fling a pass out left. It bounces off Willemse’s head and into the in-goal area, and the immediate danger is clear for Ireland.
Brian O’Driscoll speaks on ITV: “Ireland are only a score behind, there is no need to panic. Take some risks and you’ll get the rewards.”
Half-time! Ireland 3-10 France
Advantage Les Bleus. Ireland enjoyed plenty of territory in that half, and asked some searching questions of the French defence. But for all that, three points is a poor return in truth. Lowe looked to have scored an excellent try in the corner - but was unlucky that a foot was just in touch before he dotted down. As so often with France, a couple of inspired offloads, and they were in for a seven-pointer. Jalibert and Dupont have both been good, and Ireland have their work cut out.
38 min: Penalty! Ireland 3-10 France (Jalibert)
Cian Healy is the offending player this time. The referee is being strict with both teams when it comes to not rolling away, and slowing the ball down at the breakdown. France are working through the phases on the edge of the Irish 22, and Healy is penalised as he outstays his welcome in the tackle areaa. Jalibert makes no mistake with a penalty right in front of the posts.
34 min: Ireland make progress with the ball in hand towards the French 22, in a central position, but Stander is penalised for going off his feet at a ruck, and France can clear. If Galthié’s men can get to half-time ahead on the board, having soaked up 10 minutes with 14 men, they will be very pleased.
33 min: France are back to 15, with Le Roux coming out of the sin bin, and they are also ahead on the scoreboard, which is a bit of a worry for Ireland - they put their opponents under plenty of pressure in the first 20, but only have three points to show for it. And France were always going to be a threat on the counterattack.
Try! 29 min: Ireland 3-7 France (Ollivon)
Stunning score - and somewhat predictable. Ollivon initially wins clean lineout ball for France and the ball is worked out to the right. Jalibert finds Marchand with a fantastic one-handed offload in contact. The ball goes through Dupont, who flings his own one-handed pass out to the No 14, Penaud. It’s recycled again, to Dupont, then a bouncing pass back towards the left wing by Jalibert is picked up beautifully by Fickou, who finds Ollivon in space to his left, and Ollivon runs in to the corner for his seventh try for France inside 10 matches. Wonderful. The extras are added by Jalibert.
25 min: France gamble by throwing the lineout long, close to their own line. Henderson reads it, and nearly grabs it, but knocks it on and now it’s a scrum for France five metres from their own line. The first scrum is reset, and at the second France clear their lines.
24 min: Disallowed try for Ireland!
The numerical advantage looks to have paid off straight away, and it’s a fine finish by James Lowe in the left-hand corner after he’s fed by a combination of Burns and the full-back Hugo Keenan. But the TMO has a look at it, and as it turns out, Fickou and Dulin somehow manage to get Lowe’s right foot to touch the whitewash before he grounds the ball. Very nearly a fine score for Ireland.
23 min: Yellow card! Bernard le Roux
It was subtle, but not subtle enough. Earls was charging on to that kick by Gibson-Park and on replay, le Roux is shown to have flicked his left boot at the Irishman, sending him crashing to the turf. Ireland will have a 10-minute spell with a man up.
23 min: France knock on, and Ireland have a scrum in their own half. They pay lip service to trying to run the ball, but the Gibson-Park puts a high box kick up. Now, the TMO is looking at a potential yellow card for Bernard le Roux for a trip on Keith Earls.
20 min: Penalty! Ireland 3-0 France (Burns)
Ireland are on the board after France were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle area. They have three points to show for the early questions that have asked of this French defence. A good start, solid start, but they will want more to show for their pressure as the first half progresses.
19 min: Ireland build another attack. France are slowing the ball down at every ruck. The referee, Luke Pearce, tells them that they have to start getting away from the tackle area quicker. He also tells Gibson-Park not to try and buy penalties after the scrum-half deliberately tripped over a trailing French foot.
16 min: Now it’s Haouas who is penalised for France, going off his feet with France in possession, and Ireland have a very kickable penalty. But Burns gets it all wrong, sending it way to the right. Farrell, up in the stands, looks suitably displeased with that effort on goal. But on the plus side, Ireland have kept France very quiet in attack so far, and are asking them questions in defence.
13 min: The France prop Cyril Baille is penalised for collapsing a scrum, and Ireland have a platform to attack. Burns sends CJ Stander crashing into contact with a pass off his left hand, but Fickou does superbly to rip the ball out of Stander’s hands. In the next phase of play Burns puts up yet another garryowen, which Dulin confidently marks.
10 min: Another lineout, and Ireland are now penalised for holding on in the tackle after some good work on the floor by France. France choose to kick, but Ireland are off the hook as Jalibert sends his effort to the left of the uprights.
7 min: Dulin sends a fantastic low raking kick deep into the left corner as the French are attacking. Defensive lineout for Ireland. Ireland win clean ball from the lineout, rumble a rolling maul forward and France give up a penalty.
5 min: Another garryowen from Burns breaks nicely for Ringrose on the Irish left. Ireland then punch through a few carries into the French 22. Early field position for Andy Farrell’s men, and now a scrum on the French put-in after a knock-on.
4 min: Kick tennis, from one end of the pitch to the other, with neither side looking for touch until James Lowe booms one deep into Les Bleus’ territory. Let’s hope we don’t see too many of those aimless kicking exchanges.
3 min: Having almost been charged down in the first few seconds, Dulin drops a high kick by Burns, so it’s not been the best start for the French No 15.
Billy Burns gets the match going. There is action immediately, with the France full-back Brice Dulin’s clearing kick half-charged down by Iain Henderson in the danger zone, in the 22. Almost a perfect start for Ireland ...
Kamil Perrussel slides into my DMs on Twitter, with a message from across the water: “Watching the game from France, it’s refreshing to see our team at the top level again. Let’s hope Les Bleus will deliver against Ireland and roll toward the Grand Slam this year!”
Here we go. The teams are out and it’s time for the anthems. You know my feelings on La Marseillaise, it’s the best anthem going, although the French players’ rendition of it was pretty half-hearted.
It is a bit breezy in Dublin. Yesterday, Ireland’s bus was delayed when strong winds caused a malfunction at the level crossing by the stadium:
The former Ireland captain Rory Best, speaking on ITV via Zoom, reckons the home team can get the right result: “I just feel Ireland’s experience up front, especially with tricky conditions with the wind in Dublin, will be enough to see them through.”
And here is Robert Kitson on why England still have plenty of work to do despite a comfortable enough win over Italy:
There’s still time before kick-off to read Andy Bull’s match report from that stunning win for Wales last night -
Reflecting on that late error by Burns last week, Robert Kitson writes that it should not define him. And that’s the beauty of sport, isn’t it? He’s got a chance to put it right today:
Ireland won the toss and will bat. Or kick off, at least.
Today’s referee, Luke Pearce, is described as English in the above tweet, although he was born in Pontypool. Hopefully he’s already turned his phone off and won’t see Twitter.
“You have to prepare to experience chaos. We have to be ready for the unexpected, even if we do not think Ireland will change the way they play too much.” So said the France head coach, Fabien Galthié, in the run-up to today’s encounter. Paul Rees previews the match here:
Ireland’s O’Mahony is suspended following last week’s red card. Rhys Ruddock and Iain Henderson come into the starting XV, with Henderson taking the captain’s armband for the first time in the absence of Johnny Sexton. The half-back pairing of Billy Burns at No 10 and Jamison Gibson-Park at No 9 is new: it means that for the first time since 2011, one of Sexton and Conor Murray are not in Ireland’s Six Nations starting line-up.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson (capt), Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour
Two changes for France: the wing Teddy Thomas drops to the replacements bench with Damian Penaud of Clermont coming in, while Anthony Jelonch replaces Dylan Cretin in the back row.
France: Brice Dulin, Damian Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gaël Fickou, Gabin Villière, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas
It did not take very long for the pre-tournament predictions to be flung out of the window. As of last night, Wayne Pivac’s previously unfancied Wales lead the charge for the title with two wins from two, while Scotland’s dismantling of England at Twickenham last week had already ripped up the Six Nations script. France, however, did the necessary and more by putting 50 points and seven tries on Italy last weekend. On paper their visit to Dublin this afternoon will be one of the most fascinating matches of the tournament: the flair and muscle of an increasingly assured France team against Andy Farrell’s Ireland, still searching for consistency, but a team who pride themselves on solid defence.
After Peter O’Mahony was sent off in Cardiff last week, Ireland went close to grabbing victory with 14 men. The fly-half Billy Burns, who starts today in Johnny Sexton’s absence, sent a touch-finder dead as the Irish sought a last-gasp score that would have ratcheted up the pressure on Pivac to perhaps unbearable levels. Things change quickly, and the margins are fine. Presuming both teams keep 15 men on the park this afternoon, the 80 minutes will provide an accurate picture of where Farrell’s team sit on the list of potential title winners. Burns’s reaction to last week’s experience is one of the sub-plots, and Ireland can scarcely afford a second defeat.
If today’s match is anything like Wales’s 25-24 win against Scotland last night - one of the most memorable Six Nations games in recent memory - we will be in for treat. That match was settled by a smoothly devastating charge by the 20-year-old Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit. France’s back line is packed with more established talent such as Gaël Fickou, the irrepressible No 9 Antoine Dupont and the returning wing Damian Penaud. Ireland fans will be dreading seeing Les Bleus with ball in hand and in full flow, while the neutrals will be praying for it.
Team news, pre-match reading and more on the way.