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We'll learn a lot about this Irish side by how they react to France loss

Everyone was disappointed with the Irish performance last weekend when we were outplayed by a very talented French side. The main reason we lost was that, unfortunately, we let France play and, as we saw when they beat New Zealand in Auckland in June, that is a dangerous thing to do.

The mindset that the players would have had in the dressing room before the match would have been to simply contain the French flair in the first 15 minutes and not concede too many points. Whether it's the Irish team or any of the provincial sides, we would always trust our fitness to be better than the French, which we could use to our advantage late in games. The start is a huge psychological thing for the French at home as their own crowd can turn on them.

We actually started very well and, other than a couple of handling errors due to a lack of composure, we looked every bit as good as the French, however, we were playing a containment game with kicks in behind and damage limitation tactics.

Level at 0-0 after 15 minutes we had the first part of the job done, but it's very hard to play that way for 80 minutes.



PIVOTAL

The Cian Healy sin-binning after 15 minutes is being described as the pivotal moment in Saturday's match; I disagree. They were starting to make line breaks all over the field when Imanol Harinordoquy made the great break down the left touchline that led to Cian giving away three points and handing France a one-man advantage for 10 minutes.

France then took advantage of more ill- discipline, this time by Jerry Flannery, to kick a penalty into Ireland's 22 and, after a lineout and a few scrums and phases, Toulouse hooker William Servat smashed his way over from close range. Apart from a piece of individual brilliance from Gordon D'Arcy we hadn't looked like scoring, and before Harinordoquy's break it was France who showed all the ambition.

They were winning all the one-on-one physical exchanges and the energy and ferocity of their defence was a joy to watch. I doubt Ireland would have been able to hold them out even if we had 15 on the field -- they actually only scored one try while we had 14 men -- and I think that they would have scored a try in the move Healy was binned for.

Once Jauzion scored France's second try then we really started chasing the game. Ireland shouldn't have panicked at this stage. There may be an argument that we could have brought our subs on earlier.

Particularly we could have put on our impact bench players like Sean O'Brien and Jonny Sexton early in the second half. Sean wasn't used and his ability as a ball carrier could have helped us get go-forward ball. Changing your out-half is often the best way of changing a game's momentum and when you have a player of the quality and form of Sexton on the bench it makes sense to get them onto the field as early as possible.

As Declan Kidney said in the post-match interview, rugby is a game of inches. We lost those inches from one to 15 consistently on Saturday; the only real positive was the lineout.

Ireland were unbeaten in 12 games and it's very hard to keep a run like that going without underperforming somewhere along the road.

France, while very talented, could be vulnerable and might lose a game in this championship yet. I believe that if we win our last three games we will be in with a great shout of retaining the Six Nations trophy.

The Grand Slam is gone however. Only three teams have ever won back-to-back Grand Slams, which confirms how hard it is to achieve.

We will learn a lot about this team and management in how they react to this loss in Twickenham on Saturday week. I have no doubt that we will bounce back straight away. Leinster are back in Magners League action when we play the Scarlets tomorrow evening at the RDS.

This will be the fourth time that we've played them this season so far, and the more often you play a team the closer the games seem to become.



DANGEROUS

They also have Regan King back from a long-term injury and the former All Black centre is a very dangerous player when allowed time and space. I have been laid low for the past few weeks with a neck injury suffered in the London Irish game. Thankfully, I have been able to train properly this week and I am looking forward to playing again after the three-week break from matches.

We have a strong squad available for tomorrow's game despite not being able to call on the lads who started against France. Isa Nacewa who just won the Bank of Ireland Leinster Player of the Month award for December and January is back from his wedding in New Zealand. Most rugby players get married in June but Isa was lucky that our break from games coincided with his sister's wedding so they were able to have both weddings one day after the other. Isa is a deserving winner of the award and is one of the most talented players that I have played with. He has an ability just to make everything look so easy.

The next few league games will have a huge say on whether we make the play-offs of the Magners League or not, and will also be very important in building momentum for the upcoming Clermont clash in the RDS in April.


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