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Ambition aplenty but Irish pay for Paris errors

By Brendan O’Brien
IT’S like this: shoot yourself in the foot enough times, and you’ll eventually bleed to death.

So it proved, not for one, not even two, but three Irish teams over the weekend in Strasbourg, Limoges and Paris. Three cities, three defeats and a baggage full of regrets to haul back through customs.

What happened in the Stade de France on Saturday might have been more dramatic but, in some respects, the game merely mirrored what transpired the previous day when the two nations lined out for the Under-21 and 'A' fixtures.

Ireland brought ambition onto all three pitches, a determination to play an expansive game light years away from the damage limitation exercises tried so often and unsuccessfully in the 1980s and 1990s on the continent.

Their aims were laudable but their errors ultimately fatal. Between them, the three Irish sides conceded a dozen tries over the course of the two days. Two-thirds of them were self-inflicted.

In each game, missed passes degenerated into interceptions, tackles were fluffed, balls slipped through fingers and so too did tries. It's proving a rocky path, but not one Ireland seem willing to deviate from.

"We'll definitely sit down and look at the video and think how we can incorporate (what happened) into what we want to do," said Gordon D'Arcy. "If we can start a game like we finished this one, playing high-risk rugby and putting teams away, there will be very few teams able to live with us. I love playing this style of rugby."

Encouraging as Saturday's revival was, the bottom line is that Ireland again failed to ask the serious questions of a top-ranked team when it mattered. Sure they scored four tries in 10 bewildering minutes but, for 60 minutes before and 10 after, when the game was truly a "contest", Ireland failed to cross the French line.

The team's inability to produce its best form against our supposed equals or betters since the win over England 12 months ago is becoming a serious worry, but D'Arcy doesn't buy into the notion that Ireland were awful when it really mattered on Saturday.

"I've been on the back of hidings before and you know when you're playing badly and playing well. When these mistakes were happening, at no stage did heads go down. We were under the posts and saying we're not playing badly, we're playing all the rugby but just gifting France tries.

"We played a high-risk game and we suffered as a result of gifting them five tries. Intercepts, bad bounces, blocked kicks, normally only one of these might happen once in a game but France are in the top three in the world at the moment and they're always going to put away those kind of openings."

D'Arcy's point is valid. Bernard Laporte's side didn't have to reach far inside themselves to be 43-3 up.

Ireland did the spadework for them.

The French coach claimed later his side were physically exhausted after 50 minutes but they were psychologically fragile coming into the game as well. When Ireland started to pour across their line in that dizzying spell, the apprehension around the great bowl was so thick to be almost visible.

"Redemption or crisis," said a headline in L'Equipe the morning of the game. The reality is this was neither France, awe-inspiring last autumn, seem to be at something of a crossroads little over 18 months before hosting the next World Cup.

"I thought the French guys looked knackered," said Geordan Murphy. "Every time we got one or two line breaks we were cutting through them. I knew it was a long shot but even after they had two scores on the board after 10 minutes they were kicking the ball into touch in the Stade de France.

"They didn't want to play. It's gutting. There was so many quality performances out there, notably the Irish pack. They were fantastic, working harder than any pack I've seen. It's disappointing for a back to say we let them down a little bit."

Murphy knows fingers are being pointed at him and he is man enough to accept the criticism. In his first game at the Stade de France, his missed tackle contributed to the first try, a collision with Denis Leamy guaranteed the second and an ill-advised loop pass to midfield presented a third.

The obvious question is, what was he thinking, making "that" pass five minutes after the interval?

"I'm not too sure who was on my immediate right but I saw two French defenders coming up very quickly there.

"Then I saw O'Driscoll and thought he was in an ideal position if we could go with two link passes. I don't think it was a bad pass. I didn't see (Heymans) coming and he just read it like a book. I knew how the Christians in the Coliseum felt, look at it that way. I was down.

"If there had been a hole I would have jumped in it."

 

Ambition aplenty but Irish pay for Paris errors

By Brendan O’Brien
IT’S like this: shoot yourself in the foot enough times, and you’ll eventually bleed to death.

So it proved, not for one, not even two, but three Irish teams over the weekend in Strasbourg, Limoges and Paris. Three cities, three defeats and a baggage full of regrets to haul back through customs.

What happened in the Stade de France on Saturday might have been more dramatic but, in some respects, the game merely mirrored what transpired the previous day when the two nations lined out for the Under-21 and 'A' fixtures.

Ireland brought ambition onto all three pitches, a determination to play an expansive game light years away from the damage limitation exercises tried so often and unsuccessfully in the 1980s and 1990s on the continent.

Their aims were laudable but their errors ultimately fatal. Between them, the three Irish sides conceded a dozen tries over the course of the two days. Two-thirds of them were self-inflicted.

In each game, missed passes degenerated into interceptions, tackles were fluffed, balls slipped through fingers and so too did tries. It's proving a rocky path, but not one Ireland seem willing to deviate from.

"We'll definitely sit down and look at the video and think how we can incorporate (what happened) into what we want to do," said Gordon D'Arcy. "If we can start a game like we finished this one, playing high-risk rugby and putting teams away, there will be very few teams able to live with us. I love playing this style of rugby."

Encouraging as Saturday's revival was, the bottom line is that Ireland again failed to ask the serious questions of a top-ranked team when it mattered. Sure they scored four tries in 10 bewildering minutes but, for 60 minutes before and 10 after, when the game was truly a "contest", Ireland failed to cross the French line.

The team's inability to produce its best form against our supposed equals or betters since the win over England 12 months ago is becoming a serious worry, but D'Arcy doesn't buy into the notion that Ireland were awful when it really mattered on Saturday.

"I've been on the back of hidings before and you know when you're playing badly and playing well. When these mistakes were happening, at no stage did heads go down. We were under the posts and saying we're not playing badly, we're playing all the rugby but just gifting France tries.

"We played a high-risk game and we suffered as a result of gifting them five tries. Intercepts, bad bounces, blocked kicks, normally only one of these might happen once in a game but France are in the top three in the world at the moment and they're always going to put away those kind of openings."

D'Arcy's point is valid. Bernard Laporte's side didn't have to reach far inside themselves to be 43-3 up.

Ireland did the spadework for them.

The French coach claimed later his side were physically exhausted after 50 minutes but they were psychologically fragile coming into the game as well. When Ireland started to pour across their line in that dizzying spell, the apprehension around the great bowl was so thick to be almost visible.

"Redemption or crisis," said a headline in L'Equipe the morning of the game. The reality is this was neither France, awe-inspiring last autumn, seem to be at something of a crossroads little over 18 months before hosting the next World Cup.

"I thought the French guys looked knackered," said Geordan Murphy. "Every time we got one or two line breaks we were cutting through them. I knew it was a long shot but even after they had two scores on the board after 10 minutes they were kicking the ball into touch in the Stade de France.

"They didn't want to play. It's gutting. There was so many quality performances out there, notably the Irish pack. They were fantastic, working harder than any pack I've seen. It's disappointing for a back to say we let them down a little bit."

Murphy knows fingers are being pointed at him and he is man enough to accept the criticism. In his first game at the Stade de France, his missed tackle contributed to the first try, a collision with Denis Leamy guaranteed the second and an ill-advised loop pass to midfield presented a third.

The obvious question is, what was he thinking, making "that" pass five minutes after the interval?

"I'm not too sure who was on my immediate right but I saw two French defenders coming up very quickly there.

"Then I saw O'Driscoll and thought he was in an ideal position if we could go with two link passes. I don't think it was a bad pass. I didn't see (Heymans) coming and he just read it like a book. I knew how the Christians in the Coliseum felt, look at it that way. I was down.

"If there had been a hole I would have jumped in it."