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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Hugo Keenan is tackled by Penaud.
# Near miss
Hugo Keenan: 'It was our accuracy that let us down'
Ireland full back picked some positives from his side’s 15-13 defeat to France.

HUGO KEENAN ADMITS Ireland need to become more clinical if they are to close the gap to the leading sides in Europe.

After losing 15-13 to France yesterday, Ireland have now gone zero from two from their opening couple of fixtures in this year’s Six Nations championship, their worst start to a campaign in 23 years.

Afterwards Keenan said: “For us, it is about taking those chances in the first half, to make it that bit more tighter, and being a bit more clinical. Against such a good side you have to take those opportunities. You can’t just hope a few more come about in the second half. It’s just hugely disappointing, a tough one to take for us but we’ll bounce back.”

They have little choice. Italy are next in two weeks time, then Scotland at Murrayfield before the season concludes against England at the Aviva.

But Ireland need to learn how to capitalise on their advantages. Yesterday they had a numerical one for 10 minutes but failed to add to the scoreboard as France survived a threat by James Lowe and then, shortly afterwards, countered to score via Charles Ollivon.

“France are that sort of team, they can score from nothing,” said Ireland full-back, Keenan. “They don’t need a second chance. They’re very clinical, they have that bit of X-factor, they can create something from nothing. I think we nearly had to work harder for those opportunities that nearly came. It was a case of inches.”

There were positives, Keenan insisted.

“Everyone is happy with the defensive system,” he said. “We’ve got clear understanding with it, with what Si (Simon Easterby) is driving and what we want to do and our backfield system. It’s just about staying connected all the time.

“France are a serious side that put you under pressure so it’s just about not switching off for those split-seconds where you think it’s all fine and then suddenly they step back inside or throw that offload.

“It’s just that percentage point or two that we’re off. I don’t think it was any individual’s fault for anything really, it was just I suppose that extra bit of fight and extra bit of luck really that we needed to stop it.”

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Offensively Ireland also have issues.

Keenan said: “In fairness I think it was our accuracy that let us down. The systems are there, we know what we want to do and you can definitely see it. I know against Wales we were just slightly off in breaking them down out wide and it was similar enough today.

“I don’t think you can keep playing against that French brick wall. I think we probably could have put it in behind them a bit more and exposed their back field and made it a bit easier for our forwards.

“Now we haven’t done our review so it’s often tough to say what the key areas that went wrong were straight after the game. We just have to dust ourselves down and we’ll review that over the next couple of days.”

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