Ireland outplayed, outclassed and outfought by a youthful French side

Ireland outplayed, outclassed and outfought by a youthful French side

Ireland's Ross Byrne dejected after the game

NOT acceptable.

On a night when Ireland were given a very realistic opportunity of claiming a Six Nations Championship, it was very disappointing to see them be out classed by a youthful French side that were able to mix the brutality that the modern game demands with the panache and zest that makes French rugby such a beautiful sight to behold.

To beat France in their own back garden is an accomplishment that infrequently occurs however, as historical results have shown us, it is also not impossible.

The task that Andy Farrell and his charges were facing was not that hard to calculate, in fact it was very simple. 

Beat France by six or more points and the title would be theirs. 

This was all made possible as Italy kept England to a 34-5 score line which was a long way off what everybody, including themselves, would have expected as a probable outcome.

As I’ve stated already, to leave Paris with a win under your belt is not an easy thing to do albeit, when your game management is nowhere near the required level and some of your key play makers have an absolute shocker, your odds of tipping the scales in your favour are severely diminished.

Playing rugby on an international stage is not as easy as some players can make it look and there are times when an incorrect decision, a missed tackle, a forward pass, a knock-on or a moment of red mist can swing a result one way or the other and in Ireland's case all of the above happened on more than one occasion. 

Perhaps on another day the Irish players would have played smarter and made better decisions however, you only get one chance at this level and there is no tomorrow to make amends.

I think Al Pacino’s speech during the movie “Any Given Sunday” best sums up just how fickle top-flight sport can be when he so brilliantly delivers his dialogue. 

Part of this now illustrious dressing room speech goes as follows.

The Ireland team huddle after the game
The Ireland team huddle after the game

“You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. 

"I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second.” 

Pacino’s speech is just over four minutes long and I would encourage anyone who has aspirations of playing at the pinnacle of their sport to watch it. 

Yes, it’s Hollywood but its also reality.

France also made a good few mistakes, but the major difference was that Ireland were incapable of turning those mistakes into points.

French scrum half Antoine Dupont who Ireland had singled out as a key player during their pre-match video analyses turned out to be exactly what they had expected and together with his Toulouse team-mate Romain Ntamack they lapped up all of Ireland's blunders like a dehydrated cat with a fresh bowl of milk.

Apart from Dupont’s passing and kicking what caught my eye the most were his lines of support running.

Just like a top-class open side wing-forward is able to anticipate where he needs to be two or three phases before the plays actually happen, Dupont always seemed to know where he would be needed and what he had to do with the ball.

I can see how French number eight Gregory Alldritt was awarded the man of the match because of his phenomenal appetite for work and astonishing tackle count of 28 however, if it was me who had to make the choice, I would have split it between Ntamack and Dupont because of their game management and their coolness under pressure to execute what was required of them.

God help us all if this nine and ten partnership can stay free from injury and are allowed grow and flourish over the next few seasons. 

At the tender ages of just 23 and 21 respectively, I can see this half-back pairing spearheading Les Blues challenge for the World Cup glory when they host it in 2023.

Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne dejected late in the game
Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne dejected late in the game

It is always difficult to single out any individual when you are looking at reasons as to why a team containing fifteen players fell well wide of the required level however, it would be wrong of me on this occasion not to highlight the multiple mistakes made by Ireland's full back Jacob Stockdale.

There were times in the game where this seasoned professional looked as if he had lost all concept as to what was required of him and was unable to execute even the most straightforward of tasks. 

Stockdale might well have amassed a bucket full of try’s from himself over the last few seasons, but he is not even a close relation to that of an international full-back and is he a better player than Simon Zebo? 

I think we all know the answer to that question.

The look of disgust and bewilderment on the face of Johnny Sexton as he was called ashore with over ten minutes remaining on the match clock and only eight points between the sides probably painted the most theoretical picture of the evening and it was clear as day he was repulsed with his coaches decision.

The only good thing for Farrell and co is that they can now look forward to the new Autumn Nations Cup which kicks off on the 13th of this month and will be followed on subsequent weekends with games against England and Georgia.

For now, it’s disappointingly back to the drawing board.

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