Thursday 22 March 2018

Five classic Ireland-France encounters

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll scores his side's second try against France at Croke Park in 2007. Ireland won 30-21
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll scores his side's second try against France at Croke Park in 2007. Ireland won 30-21

Niall O'Leary

With the Valentine's Day clash at the Aviva looming, we take a look back at best five Ireland/France encounters in 6 Nations history.

1) France 20 Ireland 22, Stade de France, 2014

Any team that enters the Stade de France knows that they aren't going to get any handy points.

The Parisian ground can hold up to 75,000 people, and becomes a cauldron full of passionate fans who aren't afraid to let their feelings known.

Ireland left for France knowing that a win at the capital wouldn't guarantee them the Championship and the perfect farewell for Brian O'Driscoll, it would come down to points difference presuming England could muster a win against a poor Italian side.

The game was hard fought and a try just before the interval gave "Les Bleus" a one point lead at the break.

The dramatics were yet to conclude, the second half saw Ireland rush to a 22-13 lead with Sexton running under the posts to get his fifth try of the tournament. After that it was just a case of the defence holding firm.

Just after the hour mark, some magical footwork from Huget provided the platform for prop Szarzewski to touch down against the base of the post, despite Irish protests the try was given and game was left hanging in the balance at 22-20.

Damien Chouly nearly broke Irish hearts when the French number 8 touched down in the corner for what seemed to be the winner, but on a TMO decision the final pass was ruled as forward. Ireland held out to give a tension packed  finish to a match of the highest quality where the entire Championship was at stake.

2) Ireland 30 France 21, Croke Park, 2009

Ireland entertained France in their first game of the Championship in 2009. The win in Dublin would portray Ireland as title contenders, a feat they would go onto achieve by winning the Grand Slam.

This victory is seen as the one that propelled them to that success, in a game that had everything: powerful running from the French back row, a kicking mastery from O'Gara and nimble footwork from O'Driscoll, Ireland managed to break a tight French defence and come away with a victory. The game finished 30-21 with the Irish scores coming from tries from O'Driscoll, D'arcy and Heaslip and another 15 points from an impeccable display from O'Gara off the kicking tee.

3) France 25 Ireland 27, Stade de France, 2000

March 19, 2000 will be remembered for arguably one of the best individual performances in recent history by an Irish player in the Six Nations.

An Irish team who had already been embarrassed by England in their first outing, were facing two defeats on the trot and a loss in Paris would put them completely out of contention. A poor first half display left them trailing the French.

After the break things didn't seem to change, Denis Hickie stopping French hooker Del Maso from making the deficit 15 points and just when all seemed lost, a young Brian O'Driscoll announced himself on the international scene with an extraordinary hat-trick, his third most noticeably, was the work of a magician, scooping a loose ball up in his stride and dancing Emile Ntamack from distance to place the ball under the posts. The visitors would go on the claim a 27-25 victory and get their campaign back on track.

4) Ireland 17 France 20, Croke Park, 2007

This loss at Irish rugby's temporary home in Croke Park ended up costing the men in green a Grand Slam that year.

Ronan O'Gara was the sole scorer for Ireland as his four penalties and try repaired the damage from a disastrous display in the early stages from a malfunctioning Irish scrum. Ireland must have thought it was their day when Lionel Beauxis' 74th-minute drop-goal hit the post but their joy was short lived as Clerc touched down in a late twist that saw the French steal a nail-biting 20-17 win.

5) France 43 Ireland 31, Stade de France, 2006

A game that will not be remembered for its defensive highlights, a number of sloppy mistakes left Ireland heading towards the wrong end of a six try trouncing. France stormed to a 43-3 lead and showed no signs of letting up.

 A second half comeback made the scorline less embarrassing with Ronan O'Gara, Gordon D'Arcy, Donncha O'Callaghan and Andrew Trimble touching down to close the gap to only 12 points. The game ended up 43-31 to the home side, taking the embarrassing look off the scoreline.

11 February 2006; Gordon D'Arcy, Ireland, reacts to a French try. RBS 6 Nations 2006, France v Ireland, Stade de France, Paris, France. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Online Editors

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport