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'This was a massive opportunity' - Ireland rue missed chance in Paris

Captain Rory Best says Ireland struggled when France changed their props and scrum tactics.

Murray Kinsella reports from Paris

TWO GAMES INTO his new Ireland captaincy and Rory Best has yet to taste victory. Just under a week after drawing with Wales, his side came up short in Stade de France as les Bleus claimed a 10-9 win.

Rory Best dejected after the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The frustration for Best and Ireland is that even taking into consideration their underperformance, yesterday was still very much a winnable game.

Ireland had large amounts of possession inside the French half during the opening 40 minutes particularly, and yet all they could muster on the scoreboard were three Johnny Sexton penalties. They failed to score in the second half.

“Our dressing-room was a very quiet place,” said Best after the game in Paris. “You know if you’ve been well beaten and, on the flip side, you know when you’ve had opportunities to win a game.

When we look back on it as a team later in the week we’ll be very disappointed we couldn’t have put more points on the board, in the first half especially. In the second-half we allowed our boys to get a little bit isolated at times which was disappointing.

“This was a massive opportunity and when we look back on it we’ll be very disappointed we weren’t able to kick on and win that game.”

There remains a mathematical possibility of course, but realistically Ireland’s hopes of winning a third consecutive Six Nations title were swallowed up by Maxime Médard’s converted try at Stade de France yesterday.

Maxime Médard celebrates his try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

France, on the other hand, have started life under Guy Novès with two wins in two games. While several of their players will return to Top 14 duty next weekend as the Six Nations breaks, they will have thoughts of a trip to Wales on 26 February in the back of their minds.

“It was a tough game for us,” said Best of the French. “I think that in the second-half they were a lot more physical. They caused us a lot of trouble at the breakdown and made a few crucial turnovers especially in our own half and then kicked to the corners which put us under pressure.

We know how good their individuals are. They’re quality players, and as the game went on they gelled quite well as a team. Having said that, we felt in the first half especially that we could keep the ball and make them make tackles.

“For any team, having to make those tackles is tiring stuff. We were able to get through the phases and cause them a lot of trouble.”

A large part of Ireland’s work over the coming fortnight needs to centre on their scrum. The French win yesterday was built on their dominance of the scrum after the introduction of Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani on the 45-minute mark.

CJ Stander and Yacouba Camara CJ Stander rises to win a lineout for Ireland. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A week after Ireland’s scrum had allowed Wales to build a try for Taulupe Faletau, the same occurred under their own posts in the second half in Paris.

“We had a very clear scrum going into it, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t get beaten on the hit and chase,” said Best of Ireland’s scrum.

“In the first half we saw two scrums that wanted to stay straight and wanted to scrummage. That obviously suits us, and I think the scrum went really well in that first half.

The disappointing thing about that second half was that it became very messy. It started to get angles and I think that’s disappointing. We knew that was going to happen, but we needed to try and stay down.

“We probably allowed ourselves to be driven up a little bit and driven on the angle, when our plan was to keep them down and keep them straight. I think when Tadhg [Furlong] came on, especially, with the fresh legs and trying to get through the hole. It’s very difficult when a quality player like Ben Arous is pushing on the angle there.”

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Murray Kinsella

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