Five things we learned from Ireland's defeat to France
Six Nations: Joe Schmidt's men plastered in Paris
Ireland left Stade de France bloodied, bruised and beaten and with no chance of retaining the Six Nations trophy. Here are five talking points from today's match.
1 - Ireland can’t afford to pass up chances
Ireland were by far the better team for long periods at the Stade de France, but their inability to convert on their visits to the ’22 cost them in the end when injuries and fatigue took their toll and France came back.
Wins in Paris are the rarest of commodities and this was a chance to really nail down their supremacy in this fixture, but as long as Ireland’s lead remained at six points the hosts always had a chance.
For all that they were the better team, Ireland passed up far too many opportunities to score and can’t afford to do the same in Twickenham in two weeks time.
CJ Stander was guilty of another knock-on in the red-zone, Rory Best’s first lineout went astray, while Johnny Sexton’s pass hitting Robbie Henshaw when he was the decoy runner was unlucky but when they add up the missed chances they will be kicking themselves that they weren’t further ahead.
It all came back to bite them in the end and their missed chances meant that a glorious opportunity – and a title – passed them by.
2 – France are a poor side
They won, somehow, but this is a terrible France team who will be exposed as the tournament goes on.
During the first-half, they were ill-disciplined, poorly structured and made so many mistakes it was hard to keep track.
Yes, they have two of the best scrummagers around who were amazingly left on the bench for 45 minutes and size a-plenty, but they looked to have little else for most of the match.
Yet, they hung on in there and will hope that two late winners in a row will help them grow as a team. They’ve plenty of growing to do.
3 – Mike Ross is still needed
Nathan White did well until Eddy Ben Arous came on, while Tadhg Furlong struggled badly on his biggest outing in green to date.
The Wexford man will be a fine international and every prop has to go through days like this, but after Mike Ross came through Leinster’s win over Zebre unscathed, he is almost certainly going to come into the reckoning for England in two weeks time.
He may be well into his 30s, but the Corkman still has a role to play.
4 – Payne is pivotal to Ireland’s defence
There’s a reason Schmidt and his players rate Jared Payne so highly as a centre and it was there for all to see at the Stade de France.
On so many occasions, the New Zealander killed French attacks stone dead by either stepping out of the line to make a crucial tackle or subtly drifting when it was the right thing to do.
So often derided by pundits, the centre was key for Ireland this afternoon as he consistently made the difference defensively.
5 – Referees need to step up and play their part
Amid the ongoing debate about player safety it was mystifying to see referee Jaco Peyper ignore so many counts of foul play by the home side as they looked to bully Ireland.
Once Maestri got away with his sly dig on Sexton, the French forwards knew that they would get away with further acts of violence and the South African official barely batted an eyelid when the Toulouse lock piled into CJ Stander without an arm to be seen at a subsequent ruck.
Damian Chouly got away with just a penalty for a neck roll, while Guilhem Guirado’s attempts to decapitate Dave Kearney went unpunished.
Peyper had a duty of care to the players he’s refereeing and by letting so much go he was putting them at risk.