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Six Nations 2016. France 10 – Ireland 9.

We need to celebrate modern Irish rugby, not complain about it.

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Ireland lost to France by a single point today in the Stade de France. 10-9 was the score and it probably scuppers our chances of winning the Six Nations for a record three times in a row, resulting in a flood of criticism from the commentariat, the supine armchairiat who’d be hard-pressed to know one end of an inflated elongated spheroid from the other. People who’d be pushed to describe what hard physical exercise feels like are now telling us that the backs let us down, the forwards let us down, we were too lateral, we didn’t do the set-pieces well, we weren’t physical enough, the scrum didn’t work, the lineout was shaky and a whole lot of other guff besides.

Listen. We went to Paris and we were beaten by a single point in a hard-fought game. One lonely point. We lost three or four vital players due to injury and we fought the French every inch of the way on their own home turf with la Marseillaise resounding through the stadium. And we only lost by a single point.

Do you remember the old days, when Ireland supporters had far more modest expectations?

I do.

I remember when we hoped for a good first-half display from the Irish, knowing that in the second half we’d be trounced. It wasn’t easy to watch and the certainty of defeat didn’t begin to dissipate until sixteen years ago when a young man called Brian O’Driscoll burst through the French defence not once, not twice but three times to clinch victory in Paris. And it’s true that we suffered massive defeats at the hands of other nations in the following years, but we also celebrated  massive victories over them.

The days of the wooden spoon are long over. What people are mourning today is not yet another humiliating defeat consigning us to the bottom of the pile as usual, but the fact that we lost the chance to win three Six Nations in a row. If that was an easy goal, it wouldn’t be worth chasing. No team has ever achieved it, so let’s get a grip and realise that we’re facing the big boys on equal terms and they know it.

Let’s remind ourselves that things weren’t always so.

2 replies on “Six Nations 2016. France 10 – Ireland 9.”

I’m sure the armchair analysts will have their say but it was a gutsy Irish performance and the result did not reflect the effort of the Irish squad. The French looked in complete disarray and seemed to have no game plan.

Its true, it wasn’t always so but the sheep’s skin brigade will not appreciate that.

That’s the fourth successive time Sexton has wobbled off against the French.

Le shoulder-shrugging Frogs are clearly targeting him, and getting away with it. He was clattered late right under the nose of the ref on Saturday, but no binning. It should have been a red card.

The Daily Telegraph didn’t pull any punches.

“The New Orleans Saints operated an internal system of bonuses which were awarded on the basis of injuring opposition players.

“The consequences were severe. Among many bans, Sean Payton, the head coach, was suspended for an entire season, sending a clear message that the idea of setting out to physically injure an opponent was abhorrent, even in a sport as addicted to violence as American football.

“The difference between the Saints’ tactics and France’s recent approach to dealing with Jonathan Sexton is paper thin. In the past four fixtures against France, the Ireland fly-half has been forced from the field through injury. It is no coincidence. Sexton won few friends during his time at Racing Metro, being labelled the Zlatan Ibrahimovic of rugby. French players openly say they are targeting him.

“Given that Sexton has a long record of concussions, France’s methods are not just risking his career but his long-term health. Rugby’s physicality is a large part of its appeal for both players and spectators, but France have crossed a line with its approach to Sexton which should shame everyone involved in its conception and execution”

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