Friday 14 December 2018

France broke Six Nations defensive records against Ireland and the stats don't make good reading for Joe Schmidt

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ahead of the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt ahead of the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Charlie Morgan

Courtesy of a 41-phase, five-minute passage of play leading to Johnny Sexton's superb drop-goal, Ireland got out of jail in Paris on Saturday. Their Grand Slam hopes are still alive and they now have three wins over Les Bleus at the Stade de France.

Interestingly, each of them has come by the same narrow margin of two points. Joe Schmidt will feel relief and pride that his side managed to salvage a result. But there will also be a dose of concern.

Between a slick lineout strike-move to start the game and Sexton's intuitive kick-pass to Keith Earls during the match-winning sequence, Ireland's attack appeared one-dimensional. While wet conditions did encourage a narrow approach, France's defence could hold firm and soak up carriers.

The hosts ended up with a tally of 253 tackles, the highest team total in Six Nations history. Guilhem Guirado made 31 of these on his own, tying with Wales lock Luke Charteris at the top of the tournament's individual records.

Charteris also achieved his feat against Ireland, back in 2015. Jonny Gray, who made 27 tackles for Scotland against Ireland last season, is another member of the top five in this all-time list.

Each of the top four team tallies have come against the Ireland since Schmidt's arrival in 2013. Two of them came in a winning cause. Had Sexton's miraculous drop-goal fallen short or sailed wide, France would have made it three.

Most tackles by an individual player in Six Nations historyMost tackles by a team in Six Nations history
Guilhem Guirado (FRA) v IRE 2018. 31FRANCE v Ireland (2018). 253
Luke Charteris (WAL) v IRE 2015. 31WALES v Ireland (2015). 250
Serge Betsen (FRA) v WAL 2002. 27ITALY v Ireland (2014). 245
Jonny Gray (SCO) v IRE 2017. 27SCOTLAND v Ireland (2017). 242
Maxime Mbanda (ITA) v WAL 2017. 26IRELAND v France (2017). 229

 

Indeed, Ireland beat only 15 defenders - the same number as France despite cycling through 92 more rucks - and failed to score a try this weekend.

At some point, heroic defensive performances have to be attributed to attacking predictability. Nobody can question Ireland's ball retention. However, are they lacking a cutting edge?

Three consecutive home matches will come as a welcome break. This was the first time Ireland have beaten a team other than Italy away from home since the 2015 Six Nations. By the time a trip to Twickenham comes around, Schmidt will hope for greater incision.

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