Kidney refused to be cheered by a vastly improved second-half performance in the 19-12 defeat and insisted that plenty of lessons must be absorbed from defeat as they finalise plans for next month’s World Cup.
The hosts looked like World Cup contenders as they raced into a 13-0 lead with some outstanding rugby, capped by Vincent Clerc’s try. But they fell away in the second half and Ireland took advantage by staging a fightback inspired by Ronan O’Gara that ultimately fell short. But for Kidney this was a glorious opportunity lost.
The coach said: “I’d hate to go back into the past and say that I’m glad we had a really good second half.
“That’s the sort of thing we would have said in the past. We lost the game and that’s what we need to look at it.
“In the first half we did a bit of damage to ourselves because we didn’t hang on to the ball too well. At the start France played well and we didn’t play like we’re capable of.
“When you put those together you’ll end up doing a lot of defence.
“Our defence has had a lot of practice over the last couple of weeks.
“We need to go after that (victory) next week,” he said of the return match in Dublin between the teams.
“It’s easy for me to talk, I don’t have to go out there and play and I know they (players) are disappointed. We have never made excuses so we won’t make excuses now. We just have to get better.”
Clerc grabbed the only try of the game — his ninth in nine outings against the Irish — and Dimitri Yachvili kept the scoreboard ticking over with a conversion and two penalties.
O’Gara opened Ireland’s account with a 38th-minute penalty, but then incredibly the game turned the way of the visitors.
The hosts retreated into their shells while a determined Ireland produced an excellent second-half display punctuated, sadly, by handling errors that possibly cost them victory. That they failed was no fault of Paul O’Connell or Jamie Heaslip, who came off the bench to lead that challenge; nor could O’Gara be blamed, though he nudged one penalty chance to the right and wide at a time when his side had come back to within a point. O’Gara’s tactical kicking was superb and he landed three penalties in quick succession to change the game beyond belief.
France clung on, with Yachvili once more on target when he kicked two late penalty goals, but Ireland could well have snatched something when they launched a furious late assault. They fell foul of referee Steve Walsh by conceding a penalty in an attacking scrum and then lost possession from an attacking line out to allow France scrape through.
For Kidney, retention of possession is key to achieving victory in the rematch next week.
He said: “We spilled about three balls, we just gave it back to them, and if you do that you’re probably going to be without the ball for the next two minutes. When you multiply that out it’s six minutes and puts the defence under much more pressure.”
Kidney did have cause for optimism after positive displays from rookies Felix Jones and Conor Murray, both of whom looked at ease following their introductions in the second half. Jones came on earlier than expected as areplacement for Rob Kearney (groin), whose injury was later described as “not serious”, while Murray had a 20-minute run.
“I’m delighted for Conor and his family but if you ask Felix and Conor (their feelings), they only want to win matches. That’s the way we want to go about our business.”
FRANCE: D Traille (Biarritz); V Clerc (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), M Mermoz (Perpignan), A Palisson (Toulon), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), D Yachvili (Biarritz); R S Marconnet (Biarritz), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), L Ducalcon (Castres), J Pierre (Clermont Auvergne), R Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, captain), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), Raphael Lakafia (Biarritz).
Replacements: J-B Poux (Toulouse) for Marconnet (54), L Nallet (Racing Metro) for Millo-Chluski (60), M Medard (Toulouse) for Traille (63), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne) for Harinordoquy (64).
IRELAND: R Kearney (UCD/Leinster), A Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), K Earls (Young Munster/Munster), P Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster), L Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster), R O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), E Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), C Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), R Best (Banbridge/Ulster), M Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), L Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster) captain; D Ryan (Shannon/Munster), D Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster), S O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster). Replacements: F Jones (Shannon/Munster) for Kearney (injured, 46), P O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) for Cullen, J Heaslip (Naas/Leinster) for Leamy, T Buckley (Sale Sharks) for Healy (all 50), J Flannery (Shannon/Munster) for Best, C Murray (Garryowen/Munster) for Reddan (both 61), F McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Trimble (65).
Referee: S Walsh (Australia).