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Dublin: -1°C Monday 1 March 2021

Joe Schmidt is a 'magician' - The French media reaction to Ireland's win

There are concerns about the ‘incredible’ Johnny Sexton’s tackling technique.

THE FRENCH REACTION to Saturday’s defeat to Ireland has been understandably negative, with more pressure coming on Philippe Saint-André after the latest disappointment in the Six Nations.

Fans of les Bleus have been vocal in their displeasure over the head coach, although the media has generally been a little more balanced. Many have taken positives from France’s final 20 minutes in Dublin, but others feel the French were notably off the pace.

We’ve scanned the pages of three of our favourite rugby publications in France to see what they’re saying in the aftermath of Ireland’s win.

Midi Olympique

MIDOL Source: Midi Olympique

The biweekly rugby newspaper has gone into some depth in this morning’s edition, dedicating almost 14 pages to the fallout from Saturday’s defeat to Joe Schmidt’s side.

The leading feature is a two-page dossier entitled ‘What is the France XV missing?’

Answer number one is ‘an electroshock,’ which Midol says might entail getting rid of France’s South African contingent [Rory Kockott, Scott Spedding and Bernard Le Roux], dismissing backs coach Patrice Lagisquet and changing their captain.

Among the other suggestions for improving France, the newspaper highlights the need for Saint-André’s side to develop a real identity in their game plan, a winning mentality and strong personalities within the playing group.

The next page sees the paper call on various coaches and former players to add suggestions that may help les Blues, many of them echoing Toulouse coach Guy Novés in stating that France need to consistently play with the ambition and tempo they showed in the final 20 minutes against Ireland.

On page six, Nicolas Zanardi has an intriguing article on Johnny Sexton that asks if the Ireland out-half’s high tackle focus is putting his career at risk, given that it increases the possibility of impacts to the head.

Jonathan Sexton alongside Laurent Labit Racing coach Labit has concerns over Sexton's future wellbeing. Source: MOUNIC

Racing Métro coach Laurent Labit is quoted underlining as much, also stating that the Parisian club had agreed with Joe Schmidt that Sexton would play only 60 minutes against France on Saturday.

The analysis of Ireland’s win points to areas such as France’s lack of discipline, the place-kicking of Sexton and Ian Madigan, and les Bleus’ lack of combinations in key areas of the pitch as vital.

Midol’s pick of the Irish players were Sexton [three stars out of three], Tommy Bowe, Peter O’Mahony, Devin Toner [all two], Paul O’Connell, Jack McGrath, Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney and Conor Murray [all one], while Yoann Maestri earned three and Uini Atonio and Vincent Debaty both picked up two stars..

Page 12 sees Marc Duzan turn the attention to the “relentless” Paul O’Connell, pointing out that the 35-year-old is the last of the “O’Brothers” now that Ronan O’Gara, Brian O’Driscoll and Donncha O’Callaghan are gone from Ireland’s squad.

Rory Best underlines that the lineout is “an addiction” for O’Connell, while Duzan also points out that the Munster lock had to overcome issues with discipline earlier in his career. Generally, the extensive article is extremely positive about O’Connell, who remains the “figurehead of Ireland’s pack”.

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All the way back on page 18, Duzan has a report on France’s defeat to the Ireland U20s in Athlone on Friday night, the headline telling us that the French were given a “lesson in flair” by Nigel Carolan’s side.


L'Eqipe Source: L'Équipe

The sports daily dedicates two pages of this morning’s newspaper to les Bleus‘ defeat, the main headline asking, “And if we had started with the dessert?” in reference to the strong finish France made to the game.

Laurent Campistron argues that there were essentially two games within Saturday’s fixture, Ireland dominating the opening 50 minutes before Saint-André’s side took over the momentum.

The introduction of Morgan Parra, Atonio and Debaty was the major reason for the turnaround, claims the lead article, and indeed the suggestion that those three could be used as starters is widespread in France today.

Joe Schmidt This man is a magician, according to one of L'Équipe's columnists. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In a separate article, Pierre Michel Bonnot says Joe Schmidt is the best coach in the Six Nations, “and maybe the world as well.”

Bonnot points to the Ireland coach’s ability to generate real depth in his squad [citing Marty Moore as a prime example] as proof that he is “a magician”.

Saint-André, in contrast, is not filling anyone with optimism. In the final article on Saturday’s game, Alex Bardot wonders if the French players themselves believe in the project under the former Toulon boss.


The focus on Saint-André continues on the pages of rugby website Rugbyrama, one article suggesting the France coach needs to “rethink his plans” for the remainder of the tournament.

Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty Sexton was the pick of the Irish players for Rugbyrama. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The consistent inconsistency of les Bleus under Saint-André is pointed to as a major frustration, and there is the suggestion that this year’s Six Nations is already in danger of being “morose” from a French point of view.

Reviewing the individual players involvements, Clément Mazella says Sexton’s return after three months out was “incredible,” as the Ireland out-half gave “a recital of a kicking performance in the first half.”

Robbie Henshaw is highlighted for his high work rate in defence, while Rory Best, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony also impressed. For France, the “enormous” Maestri was again top of the pile, although many others like Damien Chouly and Pascal Papé let the team down.

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Murray Kinsella

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