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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 24 May, 2020


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Were we about to see the final home games for Ireland coach Declan Kidney and talisman Brian O’Driscoll?

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the match. E-mail, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Ireland 13-13 France

Afternoon one, all and French. Let us get you started with the French team (listed 15 to 1) and their replacements:

France XV to play against Ireland on Saturday, (15-1): Yoann Huget; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Frederic Michalak, Morgan Parra; Thiery Dusautoir (capt), Louis Picamoles, Yannick Nyanga; Yoann Maestri, Christophe Samson; Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Thomas Domingo.

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claassen, Maxime Machenaud, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud.

And (listed 15-9 then 1-8, because we’re cool like that) it is the Irish team. Replacements follow, as the usually do…

Ireland (v France): R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, L Marshall, K Earls; P Jackson, C Murray. C Healy, R Best, M Ross; M McCarthy, D Ryan; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, J Heaslip (capt.)

Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, I Henderson; E Reddan, I Madigan, L Fitzgerald.

I HATE it when commenters are correct! Yes, we are playing France and, yes, I wish I had travelled back in time and could play the Scots again. Cheers for the eagle guys. I’m off to take a seat before Alan Quinlan batters me for being late.

I’ll leave you with this poll. How will Paddy Jackson kick today?

Poll Results:

Under 50% (171)
Over 50% (90)

You’ve got to love modern-day Ireland. We go to huge efforts and plough in millions to build/fix up a national stadium and it still can’t protect you from the rain. Even in Row ‘T’. Forgive me if I die from electrocution mid-game.

The French players are on the pitch an Thierry Dusautoir is having a wee chat. Here come Jamie and the boys…

Ah here is our lucky chrm [not really], Michael D Higgins. El Presidenté. Did him no harm being out at Ashbourne RFC for the ladies’ match last night. Congratulations to Fiona Coghlan and co on that one.

Anthems over. Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony looked pumped. Donncha O’Callaghan looked to be in tears during Ireland’s Call. Strong chance we won’t see him in green at Lansdowne again.

KICK-OFF! Michalak gets us underway.

Goldenboy Louis Piccamoles fumbles a long ount into touch. Best with his first lineout throw. Important this. Claimed by Ryan.

Earls fumbles a high ball, France claim the loose ball and a chip almost finds Medard out on the wing. Just out of play. Ireland win the lineout and maul before Murray box kicks clear.

A Murray box kick looks poor but Huget messes it up and Ireland hare up the right wing. Lineout 10m out is claimed. The maul is on.

Ireland held up in that maul and no advancement of the ball. France get the scrum put-in. Seven minutes gone. Penalty given to the visitors [early engagement I believe] and Michalak thumps up the line. O’Mahony claims a Best dart. Super maul proceeds, Ireland motoring deep into the French half. French flirting with offside.


Ireland pressing here and looking composed. Super chip down the line and a sprinting Earls forces a chopped kick out of play. Ireland with a 5m lineout. Ryan claims and the maul is immense. No stopping that!

That try came from Jamie Heaslip at the back of the maul. Who adds the conversion from the left touchline? Paddy Jackson, that’s who. Ireland 7-0 France (’12)

France respond well and Huget wins the kicking battle with Kearney to gain ground. A penalty is then conceded as Mike Ross loses his footing. Michalak with a relatively simple effort, which he slots wide and right. Ger’im off Philippe!

Paddy Jackson approaches a high ball like a 15-year-old approaching a long admired lassie at a school dance. The result is that he gets nowhere near it. Kearney smashes a ball into the French 22 then follows his kick well and puts Parra under the pump. Ireland are in the opposition 22 and a scrum is called after a lineout goes awry. Big one for Ross here.

Great work from the Irish backline, and Heaslip, to contest a high ball and follow up in numbers. It wins them a penalty and Jackson lines up a 52-metre effort. Distance is good but it goes left and wide. No kicking for touch there. The Ulsterman gets a supportive round of applause. 23 minutes on the clock.

Michalak does ‘a ROG’ and finds Clerc out right and wide with a crossfield chip. The winger chips forward and it bounces out off Earls for a French lineout, which they claim and follow-up with a good maul. Heaslip does fantastically at the breakdown to upset Nyanga and force a knock-on.

PEN (Michalak ’25) Ireland 7-3 France

That knock-on might not be the worst thing in the world for France as they win another scrum, Healy in trouble, and Freddie M sizes up the posts. This time it is good.

France chop down an Irish maul and Jackson will kick for goal again. Sea change and all that.

PEN (Jackson ’29) Ireland 10-3 France

The toughest kick of the three so far and it makes it over the post with a snug six inches to spare. Buoyed by this McFadden goes headlong into a bunch of blue shirts and lives to tell the tale, and present the ball. Another penalty coming as the French impeded. Similar distance for Jackson.

PEN (Jackson ’32) Ireland 13-3 France

He’s only gone and done it again. Perhaps the young lad has the right stuff after all. A lot of rugby to be played, however, and France in possession.

Welcome to the party Luke Marshall. Ireland steal at the breakdown, turnover and the Ulster centre lasers a kick to within 5m of the French tryline. Ryan infringes just after that throw and a relieving kick is made.

Easy now.

Heaslip hauls Picamoles out of play and earns Ireland an attacking lineout. Great half so far from the captain. Another good Huget kick means Ireland will have some defending to do before the break.

The rugby Ireland are unfurling at stages of this half is bordering on magnificent. Best with a give and go off his lineout throw. The ball is fed back to Jackson who, beyond his tryline, steps one on Parra and kicks clear. The lineout is won by Blue and Michalak gets another kick at the sticks. McCarthy and Ryan were being bold in tandem at the breakdown.

Another miss. Will we see Michalak after the break. I can’t imagine they will continue with that fluff.


*What did you make of that half? Who has imnpressed you most in the opening 40?

A couple of things to mull over at the break: Ireland often benefit from a scrum tweak at HT. If Cian Healy can gain parity, it will really help. The elephant in the Aviva remains the string of second-half shockers from Ireland, stemming over the past 18 months.

Jackson has yet to have an easy penalty kick but he is going well at three from four and, aerial contests aside, has impressed me. I would love to see more from Rob Kearney in the second-half. He has opted for deep kicks when, in the past, he would chase the swirlers or cut loose with ball in hand.

Here’s a comment from our old buddy, David Elkin, watching from Toronto:

“Whether or not Paddy Jackson continues to play well or not, it’s nice to see that the reactionary criticism of him last week has not impacted on his performance today. He missed three kicks against Scotland, two of which were from the touchline, in an otherwise sound display.

The knee-jerk comments from people who should know better, including ex-professionals, was actually laughable. I’m not hailing him as the next anything, but the last week really showed a dearth of understanding out there for what international rugby is.”


McFadden plasters into Picamoles to force a drop on the restart. Ireland win a lineout [Ryan] after France kick clear but Mike McCarthy fumbles forward in the midfield and the scrum goes to the visitors.

Are the tweaks working? Ireland spin the French scrum and Murray wins a put-in on the next one. Penalty is then won and Ross gets the backslaps. Told ya so!

His ick from just inside the French half is on target but drops a metre short. Kearney claims the drop-out and then, 30 seconds later, pins France on the 22-metre line with a clever kick. O’Mahony almost steals but the ball bobbles to Parra, who then clears. 46 minutes gone.

Is that legal? Picamoles rides O’Brien’s back like a schoolbag and, under pressure, the flanker’s weak pass is knocked forward by Murray. A French scrum inside their 10-metre line. Penalty is given and quick thinking from Murray, who taps and rushes brings them to within metres of the line. McFadden does so well to retain a flick Kearney pass and the attack continues and moves out left…

Chance blown as Jackson pulls out of a drop goal effort and ships it 10 metres back to an unawares Kearney. The fullback has a go anyway and it is awful, right and wide. France attack but Ireland turnover the ball in their half. Stat fromRTE shows that Ireland have been in the French half 96% of the time in the opening 12 minutes of the half.

Chances need to be taken. He comes Mathieu Bastareaud.

PEN (Parra ’53) Ireland 13-6 France

Ross is penalised and Parra takes over the duties. Good kick from 42 metres out and it goes over.

Healy spills one foward in the tackle, France spin the scrum right and Parra snipes up the blindside. The pressure leads to concession of another penalty and Parra fancies it. How much is left in the Irish tank?

McFadden with his first real mistake of the game. He takes his eye off a high ball as Dusautoir approaches and knocks on. Moments earlier the ground acclaimed Kearney for a lovely take in the air and a kick up the line that was judged to perfection. 60 minutes gone.

Wow! O’Brien has absolutely pulverised a Frenchman! Two great aerials takes – Kearney and Murray – before the bouncing ball goes to the Tullow Tank. He smashes Huget into next week.

Lovely chip into the corner and Ireland are in Les Bleus’ 22 now. Fitzgerald and Reddan on for McFadden and Murray.

Marshal is the latest man in green to step up when needed. He grapples Fofana at the breakdown and wins an Irish penalty. Best with the lineout that is lost as McCarthy is jostled at the head of the lineout. O’Callaghan on for Ryan. Just over 11 minutes to go.

Bastareaud bowls Jackson over and Michalak benefits from a kicking duel with Kearney. France have an attacking lineout just outside the home team’s 22. Maul rumbles into the 22 and Ireland need to hold on. Bastareaud used as the battering ram up the middle.

HOW DID WE SURVIVE THAT?! Bodies everywhere and Ireland defend the line with 14 men as Marshall lies prone. Plays goes out left and O’Mahony is the only congratulated as Ireland win the scrum. O’Driscoll is in dreamland to. He smother two tackles in the middle of all that.

Madigan prepares to come on and Marshall is off. Murray has to come on for O’Driscoll. STANDING OVATION!

TRY (Picamoles ’74) Ireland 13-11 France

France gets the put-in as Ireland are punished for wheeling. Good first contact should win a penalty but Walsh re-sets. 73 minutes gone. Heaslip screams for his teammates to be alert but a quick-tap sees Picamoles drive over.

CON (Michalak ’75) Ireland 13-13 France

Pressure kicked goes over. O’DRISCOLL IS BACK ON!

Controversy reigns and a TMO for Ireland! Earls had it but was tackled off the ball!

We are hearing at the ground that the TMO call is ‘Try, no Try or Foul Play’. Vincent Debaty shoulder barges Earls to prevent the touch down but France get away with it. 22-metre drop-out. Three minutes remain.

Jackson, ya legend. He takes a Michalak crossfield chip in the ir. Fitzgerald gains us 10 meteres. Ireland pile into the breakdown. Reddan is on the turf. Earls gets another two yards before O’Callaghan rumbles up. France steal and then get a penalty, which is kicked down the line. Last chance for a win is gone as Murray gets the RBS Six Nations man-of-the-match accolade.

Three seconds left but the clock has stopped as Reddan is in a bad way. Stretcher on the pitch. Here comes Stephen Archer for a brief debut. O’Driscoll’s head is even more taped up. Does he even know where he is? He has taken some punishment. Cronin is on for another token cap too.

We should check if we can bring a wildcard to Oz on the Lions tour. I’d take Picamoles without a moment’s hesitation. Reddan is being carted off on the medical buggy. If France choose to kick their penalty out of play [play got called back] the game is over…


The match ends with Rob Kearney diving to sprawl himself on a grubber kick through from Michalak. Picamoles had charged through three green jerseys as he leaves O’Brien grasping at cloth and air.

We called it at half-time – tweak improves the scrum but Ireland lose another second-half. 96% territory from 40-52 minutes but all we had to show for it was a missed penalty and a poor drop goal after Jackson shirked his responsibility.

It comes down to that controversial Debaty shoulder barge on Earls as he tried to touch down in the corner. I’m biased but I felt he denied a certain try. Great effort from Ireland but they struggle to find the cutting edge and another win goes abegging.

Stay with for post-match reaction, comments and opinion.

About the author:

Patrick McCarry