Inadequate refereeing and missed opportunities - Five things we've learned from defeat to France
Ireland unable to turn territory into points as questions grow about their predictability
Ireland's hopes of a third successive championship evaporated at the Stade de France as the hosts held out for a one-point victory.
Ireland fail to make their dominance count
Ireland’s inability to turn territory into points is rapidly becoming a serious concern for Joe Schmidt.
Last week against Wales, Ireland went 46 minutes without scoring and on Saturday in Paris, they went 42, including the entire second half.
Schmidt’s side dominated the opening exchanges but it wasn’t until 15 minutes in that Johnny Sexton put them on the board. With 58pc first-half territory, Ireland should have been more than six points ahead at half-time and ultimately they paid the price for that.
The fact that Ireland are putting themselves in scoring positions but are unable to take advantage suggests that teams are finding their attack all too predictable. The chances of retaining the title have been seriously hampered – Schmidt and his brains-thrust should be looking to freshen it up for the remainder of the campaign.
Peyper’s performance beggars belief
In the last couple of seasons, there have been justifiable complaints about the amount of time spent reviewing decisions with the TMO but Jaco Peyper went full circle with his bewildering display.
The South African’s day got off to a poor start after six minutes when he adjudged that Robbie Henshaw had knocked the ball on before Dave Kearney scored. Replays clearly showed that the ball came off Henshaw’s chest but worse was to follow.
Yoann Maestri’s late shoulder charge on Sexton which was right in front of the ref was punished with a penalty but a yellow card should also have been awarded.
Guilhem Guirado’s tackle on Dave Kearney was dangerous in the extreme but again Peyper didn’t go to his TMO to review either decision. A busy week lies ahead for the citing commissioner.
Rory Best’s conversations with the ref seemed minimal and he really needed to be in his ear more. His predecessor certainly would have been.
Injury again a concern against brutal French
Four months ago in Cardiff, Ireland lost Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy Bowe and Johnny Sexton to injury against France. Sexton is the only one of the four to have yet recovered.
Ireland knew what to expect from a brutally physical French side but they were again left to count the cost as Sean O’Brien (hamstring), Dave Kearney (shoulder), Mike McCarthy (head) and Sexton’s neck/shoulder are all major concerns.
The rate at which O’Brien and Sexton’s bodies are breaking down is alarming. Schmidt will be glad of a week extra before Ireland travel to Twickenham and after two hugely physical games, it won’t get any easier against England.
Opportunity worryingly passes Ireland by
Generally speaking, there is no shame in being beaten by France in Paris but when it’s against a rudderless and disjointed outfit, questions must be asked.
France’s scrum was a shambles until they changed their two props in the second half, while their patterns of play were as murky as they were under Philippe Saint-André. This is still a poor French side and Ireland were dragged down to their level.
Ian Madigan brought a sense of panic to proceedings when he came off the bench and Paddy Jackson must be wondering what he has to do to get a chance. A couple of his Ulster team-mates have similar justifiable claims to be included if selection is being judged by form.
McGrath’s reputation continues to grow
Cian Healy's return to fitness will have Jack McGrath looking over his shoulder but not to the same extent as he would have been this time last year.
McGrath’s performances at the World Cup and in the last two Six Nations games has firmly kept him ahead of his Leinster team-mate.
He dominated France’s 24-stone tighthead Uini Atonio while his 12 tackles, to add to last week’s 16, illustrates the work that he is getting through around the park.