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Ireland run 14-man France ragged in Six Nations romp for the ages

Paul Willemse is sent off - PA

Ireland ruthlessly capitalised on the absence of Antoine Dupont to launch their Guinness Six Nations title defence with a stunning 38-17 bonus-point demolition of 14-man France.


Both sides came into a mouth-watering tournament curtain-raiser in Marseille on the back of agonising World Cup quarter-finals exits.

Tries from Jamison Gibson-Park, Tadhg Beirne, Calvin Nash, Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher ensured it was the reigning Grand Slam champions who stylishly bounced back at the first attempt to propel themselves into pole position for further championship glory.

France’s quest for victory at a largely subdued Stade Velodrome was damaged by the indiscipline of lock Paul Willemse, who was sent off in the 32nd minute following a high hit on Caelan Doris having previously been sin-binned for a similar challenge on Andrew Porter.

Scores from Damian Penaud and Paul Gabrillagues and seven points from the boot of Thomas Ramos gave the pre-tournament favourites hope.

But Ireland, aided by 13 points from Jack Crowley on his first Six Nations start, deservedly romped to another statement victory of the Andy Farrell era.


The two teams came into a blockbuster showdown seeking to ease disappointment at falling short in their efforts to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in the autumn and having each lost influential captains.

Dupont’s temporary unavailability, as he focuses on his country’s sevens squad for this year’s Paris Olympics, afforded a start to scrum-half Maxime Lucu, while Crowley was given a chance to stake his claim as long-term fly-half successor to the retired Johnny Sexton.

Farrell’s men began in the ascendancy and led through an early Crowley penalty before Willemse was ordered off for ploughing into prop Porter.

France Ireland
Willemse is given his marching orders – PA

A relieved Willemse had just learnt his yellow card would not be upgraded to red on review when Gibson-Park latched on to a fine Bundee Aki offload to ensure Ireland capitalised on their temporary numerical advantage.

Three points from France full-back Ramos’ penalty briefly improved the mood in the stands before Beirne collected Crowley’s pass to easily beat Jonathan Danty and dive over under the posts at the end of sustained Irish pressure.

Willemse’s reprieve proved only to be fleeting as he was dismissed eight minutes before the break following another dangerous challenge, this time on Doris.

Ireland were in complete control but head coach Farrell would have been frustrated to only hold a 17-10 half-time lead after Penaud, who moments early was repelled by a superb Hugo Keenan tackle, produced a spectacular finish to Matthieu Jalibert’s pass.

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All Stats and Data

The visitors set aside the setback to restore their 14-point advantage six minutes after the restart as Munster wing Nash marked his first Test start with a memorable maiden try after being freed by Doris.

Deprived of Dupont, France were largely rudderless in attack.

But Fabien Galthie’s side again cut the deficit when Gabrillagues’ score was awarded following a lengthy review, an incident compounded from an Irish perspective by new captain Peter O’Mahony being sin-binned for bringing down the maul.

Ireland once more earned breathing space 18 minutes from time when Sheehan peeled off a rolling maul to finish his own line-out.

The staggeringly-simple score secured a merited bonus point for the dominant visitors and proved to be the fatal blow to French resistance.

Yet there was more punishment to come for the ragged hosts as replacement hooker Kelleher bulldozed over to cap a fine Ireland performance and ramp up pressure on Les Bleus head coach Galthie.



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Henrik 132 days ago

Dupond here DuPont there, I think Les Bleues should have enough talent to side a competitive team …. pretty disappointing display yesterday ….
Ireland on a about the same level as in their QF loss against the All Blacks (nowhere near the clinical brilliance as in the pool games vs Boks or Scotland), but that was enough to destroy an uneven France

Shaun 132 days ago

Seems like Ireland has a future after Sexton, but france seem to not spark without Du pont? They will need to work in that, what happens if he gets badly injured before a world cup or something

Pecos 132 days ago

“For the ages” lolol. Great win but stay in the “now” guys.

Shaylen 132 days ago

Ireland and France are fairly well matched teams but France let themselves down and Ireland executed properly. The discipline from France was shocking and they never got to utilise their forward power or silky counterattacking skills because they kept infringing. Cant really complain after a result like that

Thomas 132 days ago

The card will be the talk of the day, but it really shouldn’t. France never looked like winning the match, not even at full strength.
They played well below their standard.

Michael Röbbins (academic and writer extraordinair 132 days ago

Ballsac yellows showing how hilariously, maddingly stupid rugby union has become. Reactionary taints who would rather spoil a match than face the music.

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