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Posted Feb 18, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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Make no mistake, France are a lucky, lucky group of players to have achieved full points from their opening two six nations fixtures. If their performance against Scotland encompassed everything that was great and entertaining about rugby union, then this performance against some valiant Irish play was the reverse. The fact that French coach Marc Lievremont only awarded his side four out of ten tells it’s own story.
Against the Scots, France showed passion, power and pace. Against the Irish they were a shadow of this team, instead looking almost intimidated by an opposition that were far faster out of the blocks. The first two minutes of Sunday’s fixture was possibly the finest exhibition of multi-phase rugby that I’ve witnessed all year and the fact that it was ended due to a very marginal forward pass was a shame.
However, the Irish continued and obtained their first try only moments afterwards, Fergus McFadden able to take advantage of a spilt pass by Francois Trinh-Duc to crawl over the line. Johnny Sexton was comfortable in converting.
With the greens only needing to continue along the same road to defeat the underwhelming French, it will be very concerning for Declan Kidney to see his side then lapse back into the sloppiness that has plighted them so far in the tournament. Infringement after infringement led to the French finding themselves in a puzzling position of being 12-10 up in the led up to half-time. However, once again the Irish pressed and Tomas O Leary was able to power himself over the line, giving the home side the lead at the break.
Unfortunately for the Irish, it was almost straight after the break that the French showed their only streak of class, the excellent Morgan Parra scoring a superb penalty (his fifth of the game that was followed by his immediate replacement, bemusing more or less everyone), and then Aurelien Rougerie – the best French player by a distance – manufactured an easy try for Maxime Medard.
Once Dimitri Yachvilli had converted and added a further well-taken penalty the game had more or less run away from the Irish, despite Jamie Heaslip’s late try and Ronan O’Gara’s conversion. However, they will look at what was largely a good performance and lament that they weren’t able to take more advantage of such an off day by the French. As Kidney stated at the match’s conclusion ‘We need to keep playing the way we are playing but just do it better.’ He’s quite right.