'There's a fair bit of frustration and that reflects our inability to take our chances' - Joe Schmidt
Ireland pay heavy price in 10-9 defeat to France with four more injuries
Ireland are this morning counting the cost of another bruising encounter as four more front-line players injured and leaving Joe Schmidt's resources further depleted ahead of the daunting trip to Twickenham on Saturday week. Dave Kearney, Seán O'Brien, Mike McCarthy and Jonathan Sexton were all forced off during yesterday's 10-9 defeat in Paris.
Not since the first quarter of the last century had Ireland managed to go five games against France undefeated. For half of this slog in the rain you would have backed Schmidt's side to stretch that to six, but we had a different game after the break.
And soon after the battered Irish players were dragging themselves off the field, just after replacement Maxime Machenaud had hoofed the ball out of play to finish the game, the home team were launching into a lap of honour.
You might think a circuit like that is a bit rich from a team who have won nothing, and whose record in this competition is woeful, but Guy Noves is investing in youth, and the confidence that will surge through the squad after this will be immense.
For 40 minutes Ireland were by far the better side. Had it continued like that in the second half then Noves would be fending off the French media this morning. Instead he is talking about two from two, and a bright future for a squad who are not short on athleticism.
Games like this don't come without controversy of some sort, and South African referee Jaco Peyper is in the eye of the storm now. It is a virtual certainty that France captain Guilhem Guirado will be cited for a high hit on Dave Kearney that ended the involvement of the Ireland wing after less than half an hour. The mystery was how the referee didn't refer the incident to television match official, George Ayoub.
"Yellow cards aren't for me to comment on but I'd ask the referees' assessor to look at that," Joe Schmidt said afterwards. "What Rory (Best) and I have to look at is to stay focused in these situations."
Not only did play continue without a penalty, but so too did the France hooker until he was replaced in the third quarter. Kearney's withdrawal with an AC injury - which will keep him out for a few weeks at least - compounded the loss of O'Brien, who tore his hamstring, before the first quarter was complete.
With that Ireland lost one of the twin peaks of their ball-carrying detail. The other, CJ Stander, had another fine game, but his impact would have been greater had O'Brien been sharing the load. Other casualties included second-row Mike McCarthy, who seemed out of it by the time he hit the ground when making a tackle in the second half, and team leader Johnny Sexton who went off late on with a neck injury.
"We're hugely disappointed," Schmidt said. "When you lead 9-3 for so long and have a couple of opportunities in the first half? We got close on the 'try' scored by Dave Kearney that came off the midriff of Robbie Henshaw. We had to capitalise on a strong kicking game and pressure positions in the French 22, and didn't. There's a fair bit of frustration and that reflects our inability to take our chances."
The aggregate of all that is that Ireland head to Twickenham in two weeks with hopes of three Championships in-a-row dead.
If Eddie Jones's side are successful in Rome this afternoon, Ireland will be facing a home team on the back of two wins from two, and the momentum that brings.
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