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The French tactic that was 'little bit surprising' to Andy Farrell

By Liam Heagney
James Lowe tackles Thomas Ramos (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Andy Farrell strode into his Aviva Stadium media briefing full of the joys of spring after his Ireland team had defeated France 32-19 in a Guinness Six Nations classic. A frenetic half, which ended with the home side 22-16 ahead after thrill-a-minute exchanges, gave way to a much cagier second half where scores were at a premium until a 72nd-minute Garry Ringrose try decided the outcome.


Ireland ultimately trumped the French on a four-one try count, restricting the visitors to just three points in the entire second half, but the royally entertaining first half was jammed with attacking action, including a tactic that left the Irish coach somewhat startled.

“It was a little bit surprising how they [France] went about their game in the first half, to be honest, as far as how much ball they played in and around halfway,” he explained with the dust having settled on a vibrant afternoon at Lansdowne Road that ended with Ireland on 10 points on the Six Nations table, ahead of second place Scotland on points difference.

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“They are normally very pragmatic as far as that is concerned. I don’t if that is anything to do with it [alleged French sloppiness] but wow, when you say they’re sloppy, I don’t necessarily agree with that term. You are always five seconds from someone doing something remarkable.

“As far as (Antoine) Dupont and the two wingers are concerned, I don’t know if anyone tackled them throughout the full 80 minutes, to be honest. Even I was exhausted – and I didn’t play the game. It was a top-end Test match. It was what everyone wanted and everyone got that. We are fortunate to come out on the right side of the scoreboard.”


The victory was Ireland’s 19th in 21 matches since they lost to France in round two of the 2021 championship, justifying their No1 world ranking in the process. What most impressed Farrell about his team in getting the job done? “The character more than anything,” he enthused. “If we are talking about the bigger picture stuff, the fight, the want to cover each other’s back, to show the togetherness and the spirit that we know we have got.


“To show it to everyone else in world rugby, it was there to be seen. We could talk for hours in that regard of instances and people not playing too much rugby and coming back and putting in performances like that when the chips are really down in big games, it shows a lot of character.

“The first half was wow, just end to end to stuff. We all hoped it would be like that and it certainly was end to end. Even though I thought field position-wise we controlled it pretty well in the end, it’s not over until it’s over, probably until the 78th minute or something like that when you’re thinking we have won a titanic game in that respect.

“Unbelievably proud of the lads, what they have been through the last three weeks. They dug in hard. It meant a lot to them today and they certainly showed that.”

Ireland had their squad depth tested by the need for their bench to bring the win home and it left Farrell recalling a conversation he had with skipper Johnny Sexton in Portugal when they were preparing for last weekend’s round one win over Wales. “I remember Johnny in Portugal, we got up to speed after a week and we had a training session, 15-on-15.


“The team was already picked and he got the lads in after the session and said, ‘You wouldn’t know which is the first team, the Irish team that is playing at the weekend’. That is where we are at, so therefore the belief is real and you actually get to a point where you are pleased that people are able to get an opportunity to see whether they can take it or not.

“That is the stage we are at, we’re trying to find out about each other. So in that regard, there are a few injuries and a few people pulled out. But at the same time look at the strength of the bench coming on today. It’s a mark of where we are as a group.”


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