pain in Paris

'We’re not going to look for excuses' - Ireland face up to failure in Paris

Joe Schmidt’s men aren’t giving up on the Six Nations just yet.

Murray Kinsella reports from Paris

“NOT SCORING ANY points in the last 50 minutes did us in.

“Not being able to capitalise when we had the ball. That’s the main part I think.”

Devin Toner sums up the game, and the frustration of Ireland and their supporters, in his three-sentence answer to a question about the feeling in the away changing room post-match at Stade de France.

Tommy O'Donnell and Donnacha Ryan dejected after the game Ireland were left disappointed in Paris. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The towering lock was swift to push credit onto the French for their part in Ireland’s failure to amass any points beyond the nine Johnny Sexton kicked in the first half, though he feels that Ireland’s lack of discipline after the break was costly too.

“It was going well,” said Toner. “Coming in at half-time, 9-3, we had the upper hand. We didn’t feel like they were going anywhere, our defence was good. It didn’t feel like they were going to be able to get points. Obviously in the end they put the pressure on us.

“I suppose it’s an individual basis. First penalty in first half was me going off my feet. Discipline is a huge factor. In the second half, just being able to lock out a scrum, or hold it out.”

Replacement openside Tommy O’Donnell, who filled in for the injured Sean O’Brien, lumbered into the mixed zone after Toner had gone, echoing the lock’s sentiments about Ireland’s failure to use their possession clinically.

I think we have to be smarter,” said O’Donnell, “be a bit cuter with our possession, definitely more accurate with our possession, turning good field position into scores, keeping the scoreboard ticking over and taking that little glimmer of hope away from teams.”

Ireland appeared to fatigue badly in the endgame as the French showed far greater energy and work rate.

Having had only six days to turnaround from the draw with Wales last weekend, it seemed obvious that Ireland would find the going tough late on in Stade de France, but Toner insists that it was not in any way decisive.

“We’re not going to look for excuses,” said the Leinster man. “I don’t think so, to be honest. We’ve been looked after us very well this week in training. We were all on top of our recovery and we all prepared well. It’s not something we can make excuses about.”

Virimi Vakatawa and Maxime Médard celebrate after the game Jamie Heaslip at the final whistle in Stade de France. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

This defeat in Paris, following hot on the heels of a home draw in the opening weekend, means Ireland’s hopes of retaining the Six Nations title appear to be over.

However, Toner is not giving up on the championship just yet. Next weekend provides a break from competition and an opportunity to recuperate fully, before the somewhat daunting prospect of a visit to play Eddie Jones’ England in London.

“It’s out of our hands at the moment,” said Toner. “There’s always a chance. Look at last year and it came down to three games. There’s always a chance.

The next game is going to be quite a big one over in Twickenham. We haven’t won there in a while. It’ll be a tough test.”

Many Irish fans will look at that visit to England with some trepidation, even more so with O’Brien in danger of missing out with his hamstring injury. Ireland, however, have to maintain their positive mindset or this championship could be a washout.

“We’re depending on results, but you never know how the cards are going to fall,” said O’Donnell. “We’ll see tomorrow night how we’re sitting. Let those tired bodies recover, get back into camp and take it from there.”

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