The Best Of Times

Ireland 32 -19 France - Post-Match Analysis (The Best Of Times) Header Photo
Sealing The Deal: Garry Ringrose breaks down the wing to score Ireland’s bonus point try in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Ireland came out on the right side of one of the great Test matches at the weekend thanks to a tremendous team effort. In many ways, it was a fixture and performance that they had been building towards since the start of this World Cup cycle, and although home advantage is crucial when playing France and Ireland don’t have fond memories of competing for the Webb Ellis Cup, there is no doubting now that they are to be taken seriously ahead of the global tournament later on this year. Photo credit: ©INPHO/James Crombie.

Saturday afternoon saw Ireland and France go head-to-head in a breathtaking encounter that was easily one of the most gripping contests of the last decade at least. James Lowe’s try and Uini Atonio’s high shot on Rob Herring were the two main talking points, but Ireland were the better team over the course of the match, despite letting France go into a worrying lead in the opening quarter. In a helter-skelter game full of last-ditch/shooter tackles and charged down kicks, Ireland had more composure overall.

Admittedly, Les Bleus have been off-colour in this competition thus far and are a different beast on home soil to begin with, but the pressure that Ireland exerted on them through fantastic execution of a clever game plan forced the French into uncharacteristic errors. It felt like a seminal moment for Andy Farrell’s side, and while they still have tough fixtures to navigate before the end of March, getting such a convincing win over a vaunted opponent was probably the most enjoyable display of this World Cup cycle from an Irish supporters’ perspective.


Ireland were a lot more direct in attack than I expected against France on Saturday against an enormous French pack that contained a larger-than-normal second row in the absence of Cameron Woki, particularly in the first half. It was telling that two of their tries came from hammering away at the French try-line through repeated forward carries, and there was real venom (as well as technical brilliance) in Ireland’s work in this phase of play:

The fact that Ireland got held up over the line on numerous occasions, but had the determination to keep coming back to try again speaks volumes about their character and self-belief.

It wasn’t unlike their clash with New Zealand in November 2021 where they looked like they had let the game pass them by after squandering a few try-scoring opportunities in the first half, but persevered anyway and ultimately came away with the win. Developing their mental strength in these types of situations is something that Andy Farrell has spoken about since day one.

Having explosive carriers in every one of their forward bench spots was a massive factor in Ireland keeping this pressure up for 80 minutes, but it wasn’t all brute force, either. They did manage to stretch France out wide and get away down the tramlines, and it is a huge mark of respect that France’s normally aggressive defence stood off Ireland at times due to the number of threats they pose with their intricate attacking structure:

Hugo Keenan’s try from the Joe Schmidt playbook was a thing of beauty, and Caelan Doris’ offload to Garry Ringrose for the decisive score was reminiscent of the All Blacks in their pomp, but being able to play effective multi-phase rugby against a team like France was the more pleasing takeaway for Ireland from this fixture. They struggled to do so last year against the same opposition, but outstanding basics, well-drilled shape and the right level of aggression in contact meant that France couldn’t cope with them in the end.

Steering The Ship

While Ireland’s work with ball in hand was impressive, a big part of the reason why they were able to put France on the back foot was the fatiguing effect of their kicking game. Pre-match, I pointed out France’s difficulties with high ball-in-play times, and Ireland clearly identified this as something that had to be a cornerstone of their strategy. Their use of the boot was key to their victory, with long punts in the field of play from Ireland being regular features of the first half, preventing the French forwards from taking a breather on their way to lineouts:

Being deprived of breaks in play took its toll on the French forwards over the course of the game, with their line speed and intensity in contact not being at their typical high standards, but what was interesting was that Ireland changed up their kicking tactics in the second half.

Instead of putting in downtown kicks, Ireland stabbed the ball deep into the corners, forcing the French pack to cover long distances and drain their confidence and energy with territorial losses:

Ireland did lose some aerial contests, but France were starved of possession and territory in this game. The visitors managed to be lethal from the precious opportunities they did get, but being limited to such an extent was the end product of intelligent tactics and superb skill execution on Ireland’s part. While the first half of the game was nerve-wracking to watch, Ireland imposed their game plan on France for the second 40, and it was as dominant a half of rugby that they have manufactured under Andy Farrell.

The Art Of Timing

Johnny Sexton spoke with surprising honesty in his post-match interview about how this was a game that Ireland were really targeting as part of their development as France were the one team that they hadn’t beaten in the last few years, and it certainly feels that there is a collective relief among Irish supporters that they have finally done so, not to mention confidence about what else they could achieve this year.

It’s hard to explain, but sometimes, you can tell when something is just right with a team. It’s definitely an intangible, but between the quality of their performances and the positive energy around this team, it seems like Ireland have come good at just the right time in terms of hitting top form ahead of a good World Cup. It’s a challenge that brilliant coaches such could never quite overcome in the past with Ireland, but Andy Farrell and co. have potentially done the trick.

Ireland’s World Cup pool is gruelling, and even more so now with Scotland’s recent form and the change in eligibility rules making Tonga a more potent force, but since clicking against England in March of 2021, they have been up to the task in pretty much every game that they played, and winning their first two fixtures of this tournament in style without the services of Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw (on top of being without Dan Sheehan against France) is a testament to their squad depth.

Beating a talented and ferociously competitive Australian side back in November without Johnny Sexton could be chalked off as a freak occurrence, but Ireland put the World Cup favourites to the sword in the Aviva Stadium at the weekend with their captain off the field for most of the second half. They still have a long way to go in this competition alone, but have put themselves in the strongest position possible to combust at the ideal time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s