Well, Ireland got its 6 Nations campaign back up-and-running, after a good performance against Italy.
It took a while for Ireland to get going (the first-half finished 17-10), but they eventually finished the match with 5 tries, and an eventual score of 42-10. It wasn’t a perfect performance but probably Ireland’s best since against Australia in the World Cup.
Some of the Ireland players had great games. Kearney made yards; Bowe got 2 tries; Trimble was quieter but got a great intercept try towards the end. D’Arcy had his best game in years, and Sexton was also sublime with his kicking.
O’Connell had a commanding performance and Ferris was the pick of the back row, though neither O’Brien nor Heaslip were that great. Murray was quite quiet at scrum-half, with Reddan having a far better effect when he came on as a sub.
It was a good victory, not great, but probably better for morale going into a tough game against the French, having the win. The team is unchanged for the match, Sunday 3pm.
It will be very tough. Ireland have a very poor record against France. They’ve only won once in Paris since 1972 (2000), and they’ve lost 12 of the last 14 games against the French, 3 of those last year!
Both French centres should be real threats. The Irish have no-one to match Rougerie physically in mid-field (there was talk of bringing Bowe into centre, who’s the same height as Rougerie), and Fofana is a dangerous runner.
The French back row, especially Dusautoir and Harinorduqouy, will be a handful for the Irish back-row. Even on their best days, Heaslip and O’Brien would have a tough time against those players. And they haven’t had one of those days in a while.
Ireland need to attack the French from the start, and keep on pressuring them. They need to be even better than they were against Australia if they are to have any chance of winning the game.
The game is very difficult to call. France are taking a while to get going under their new coach. They weren’t great against Italy (we scored more points against Italy), and they almost lost to Scotland, the game finishing 23-17.
They showed against Scotland that they are vulnerable. Stuart Hogg, playing his first game, cut them to shreds, even scoring a debut try. Laidlaw had another great game, and both scrum-halves (Cusiter and replacement Blair) made yards.
We do have a better team than Scotland, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to match the French, but there seems to be something missing from our mindsets. The French will be more prepared for an onslaught as well.
The game against Ireland could be when the French finally come into their own, after stuttering starts against Italy and Scotland. Our only hope then will be whether we can keep the defeat respectable. I feel we’ll be lucky to keep it within 10 points.
Considering our dismal record against the French, a win is the only thing that would count. Moral victories don’t mean anything in today’s game, and 13 losses out of 15 won’t do anything for the player’s morale next year.
In the final game last weekend, Wales won their first Triple Crown since 2008, when they beat England, 19-12. Wales had already beaten Scotland and Ireland, and now it looks like France are the only thing standing in the way of them winning the Grand Slam.
England played very well; they actually finished the first-half, 9-6. Farrell had another great game, and looks to be the find of the tournament, so far. But Wales kept their unbeaten streak with a commanding performance by captain Warburton, leading the way.
It was a great weekend of rugby, with 2 exciting matches featuring evenly matched teams. The bad news for Ireland is that those displays will have galvanised both the Scots and English, and they’ll be tough nuts to crack when we face them in our upcoming fixtures. And, they’ll have rested this weekend while we go up against the French.