Caelan Doris and Tadhg Beirne at the final whistle in Paris. Billy Stickland/INPHO

France in driving seat but Farrell 'unbelievably pleased' with Ireland's effort

The head coach praised the ‘character, fight, and want’ from his players in Paris.

SO NOW IRELAND must hope that the French slip up. Les Bleus have visits to Scotland and Wales to come in the next two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations before they conclude their championship by welcoming England to Paris.

The French plan is that they will be going for a Grand Slam in that final game of Super Saturday on 19 March, the same day Ireland will host Scotland in Dublin hoping that a home win could leave them in position to win the title.

There’s also still a possible Triple Crown there for the taking.

There was major disappointment for Ireland on Saturday at Stade de France as they came up short in their bid to pull off what would have been a remarkable comeback victory. There are more than a few moments Andy Farrell’s side would love to get back from that 30-24 loss.

But there were several reasons for optimism too. It was certainly a far cry from Ireland’s 2020 defeat in Paris when they never really looked like beating Fabien Galthié’s side.

Ireland have a few wounds to lick as they head into the first break weekend of the Six Nations before welcoming Italy to Dublin on Sunday 27 February, but Farrell will be keeping their minds focused on staying in the hunt after this setback.

“History shows you that you’ve got to be ready in the Six Nations,” said Farrell on Saturday night at Stade de France.

“You’ve got to make sure that your own house is in order in regards to your next game and you look at the competition with Wales winning against Scotland, England losing their first game.

“And so, yes, France are in pole position, they’ve had two home games, but at the same time we move into our next game and try to be at our best and take each game from there.

“I’m sure that if we continue to show the fight and character that we have done here, which was an unbelievable Test match, I’m sure we’ll be in the mix towards the end of it.”

the-france-team-celebrate-winning-with-their-fans France celebrate with their fans. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It will be fascinating to see whether Farrell makes many changes to his team for the Italy clash. Captain Johnny Sexton may be back from his hamstring strain but the Ireland boss will surely be tempted to give Joey Carbery another start after describing the Munster man’s performance in Paris as “excellent.”

Hooker Rónan Kelleher sustained a shoulder injury and was forced off in the first half, with Dan Sheehan impressing off the bench in his place. Peter O’Mahony will go through the return-to-play protocols after failing to return from a head injury assessment soon after coming on as a replacement.

Meanwhile, wider squad members like James Hume, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, and Jordan Larmour will be hoping for an opportunity against the Italians.

Ireland’s review of last weekend will likely centre on their damagingly poor exiting from their own 22, their repeated problems at the breakdown in the face of massive French pressure in that area, and some set-piece issues along the way.

Farrell said his players had made the correct decision when they opted to kick for goal rather than going into the corner in the 72nd minute when they trailed by six points.

“It’s all ifs, buts, and maybes and the players have a great feel on the field and in reality, we got three points and there’s plenty of time in the way that we were playing,” said Farrell.

“I was unbelievably pleased with the character, fight, and the want from the players, certainly in that second half.”

And that was Farrell’s key message from Paris. The way he spoke about his team was almost as if they had pulled off that comeback to win.

andy-farrell-before-the-game Farrell was proud of his team. Dave Winter / INPHO Dave Winter / INPHO / INPHO

He firmly believes that they are still in the fight for this Six Nations and have also taken another important step towards the 2023 World Cup, which will involve two key pool games against Scotland and South Africa in Paris. And maybe even a quarter-final against the French in Stade de France.

“We will certainly show the group during the week the reason why they are such a courageous side because we have seen many a team that come here to Paris and fall over completely, especially when faced with a scoreline like 22-7,” said Farrell.

“That certainly was never going to be the case with this lot. They back themselves to get into the game and to be in with a chance of winning the game shows a lot.

“But at the same time, we will be honest enough to work out the reasons why we got to that stage in the first place.

“There is obviously plenty of learnings, both with a few things not going for us during the week and a few things not going for us in the game as far as injuries and turnovers and setbacks, etc. It never fazed the group and that’s a brilliant way to take this forward.”

Ireland legend Rob Kearney joined host Seán Burke, Murray Kinsella and Eimear Considine for the first episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness. Rob ​​speaks about his most euphoric moment in a green jersey, life after retirement, a “brutal” return to the GAA pitch, and his skincare routine. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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