Alan Quinlan: The referee was a disgrace and should be stood down
I am not making excuses but . . . The performances by both George Ayoub, the TMO, and Jaco Peyper, the referee, on Saturday, weren't just poor - they were an absolute disgrace.
Yes, they have hard jobs but surely there has to be accountability in the same way that if players have a bad game, they have to face the music and if coaches under-perform, they lose their jobs.
Should Ayoub and Peyper lose theirs? Certainly, in my opinion, they should be stood down. They got it wrong on Saturday, firstly when Johnny Sexton was clocked late by cynical challenge from Yoann Maestri. Yellow card, surely? Nope, sorry folks, just a penalty.
Then Guilhem Guirado's tackle on Dave Kearney should have resulted in a straight red - 100 per cent. Yet Peyper didn't give it.
Those are the moments when you expect your TMO to step in. And Ayoub has done so before. At last year's World Cup, he intervened when JP Pieterson, the South African winger, tackled Tim Swinson during the pool game against Scotland.
Nigel Owens, who was refereeing, insisted he was happy with the tackle and played on. Ayoub, however, was in his ear, asking for the game to be stopped. Eventually it was. So why didn't he kick up as big a fuss on Saturday when there was clearly an injury caused by a high tackle?
Guirado should have seen sent off, pure and simple. Yet the perpetrator was allowed stay on the pitch while the victim - Kearney - had to leave it, after picking up a nasty-looking injury to his AC joint. Where's the justice there?
And where was the TMO? If he can't identify those types of incidents then why has he been appointed to such an important job? It's worth pointing out that last May, SANZAR stood him down after he made two crucial calls in a Super 14 game between the Waratahs and the Sharks: ruling out one try which should have been allowed stand, and giving the thumbs up to another score that should have been disallowed.
Those calls influenced the outcome of that match - and Saturday's non-calls were definitely a factor in determining the eventual scoreline. Maestri and Guirado should be cited and subsequently banned and Peyper and Ayoub should be asked to explain their decisions in public. If that seems harsh then so is having to spend your weekend wondering when you will be able to play rugby again. My sympathy, pure and simple, lies with Kearney not Peyper or Ayoub.
Am I as sympathetic to Kearney's team-mates, though? Not quite. They should have won. Bottom line. And for so long it looked as if they would because they started like a train, pinning the French back into their own half, trying to play with an intensity and a passion that their hosts struggled to contain, and for so much of this game, they were in control when something, somewhere went wrong.
And it's easy enough to pinpoint what it was. We had plenty of possession and should have scored more. That was a factor as was Sean O'Brien's enforced withdrawal - even though his replacement, Tommy O'Donnell, had a very good game.
What made this a big deal is the fact you have to add O'Brien's absence to the following list of players: Peter O'Mahony, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Marty Moore, Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Iain Henderson, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls. After 70 minutes, Sexton, Kearney and Mike McCarthy, were also forced off while Jared Payne was playing with an injury. So we were down to our sixth-choice winger, fifth-choice lock, and when Nathan White was withdrawn through fatigue, our fourth-choice tighthead. And we simply haven't the depth of players to cope with so many setbacks.
That's one of the reasons you lose a game you should win. And that's why the anger is here this morning with Ayoub and Peyper. Ireland should have been playing against 14 men for most of that match.
And yet, despite all those mitigating factors, we still threw it away. Or more to the point, we kicked it away, our retreat into our own 22 for pretty much the last quarter of the game stemming from Rob Kearney's poor kick in the 60th minute which found Maxime Medard.
Ceased From there the counter-attack began and the French pressure never ceased, not even after Medard scored the game's only try. Freshness won. Tiredness lost.
You could see the difference in energy once that try was scored. Ireland were gone. Exhausted. The French bench had a huge impact on the result.
And so for the first time in his two-and-a-half-year reign as coach - indeed in his time living in Ireland - Joe Schmidt has to cope with some unwanted pressure.
After all he's achieved - and all he has won - there is credit in the bank. He'll be allowed a bad season.
He has delivered in the past and so has to be trusted to deliver again in the future. He remains a brilliant coach but neither he, nor we, can get away from the reality that if the same stuff happens against England in two weeks' time then the same result will happen as well.
So let's see change. Let's see Stuart McCloskey, Ross, Zebo and Earls in - and Peyper and Ayoub out.