Six Nations: France v Ireland

Joe Schmidt's side take on a youthful Les Bleus with the rare tag of favourites in Paris

Patrick Madden Sat, Feb 3
LIVE: Six Nations: France v Ireland

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  • Good afternoon!

    Welcome to our coverage of Ireland's opening Six Nations fixture against France (4.45).

    The stage is set in Paris after a breathless, brilliant win for Wales against Scotland. Four teams are yet to kick a ball, but already the Championship has taken on a slightly different complexion.

    This afternoon Joe Schmidt's side enter the Stade de France carrying the unusual tag of favourites. Ireland have won in the French capital just twice since 1972 - including once in 2014 to secure the Grand Slam - but are heavily fancied to make it three today.

    We'll be bringing you all of the action from Paris througout the afternoon - let's hope it's less fraught than Cardiff.

    Come on!!!

  • TEAMS:

    FRANCE: Geoffrey Palis (Castres); Teddy Thomas (Racing 92), Rémi Lamerat (Clermont Auvergne), Henry Chavancy (Racing 92), Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92); Matthieu Jalibert (Bordeaux-Bègles), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92); Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Bègles), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon) (capt), Rabah Slimani (Clermont Auvergne), Sébastien Vahaamahina (Clermont Auvergne), Arthur Iturria (Clermont Auvergne), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Yacouba Camara (Montpellier), Kévin Gourdon (La Rochelle). Replacements: Adrien Pelissié (Bordeaux-Bègles), Dany Priso (La Rochelle), Cedate Gomes Sa (Racing 92), Paul Gabrillagues (La Rochelle), Marco Tauleigne (Bordeaux-Bègles), Antoine Dupont (Toulouse), Anthony Belleau (Toulon), Benjamin Fall (Montpellier).

    IRELAND: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Keith Earls (/Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster) (capt), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: Sean Cronin (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Dan Leavy (Leinster), Luke McGrath (Leinster), Joey Carbery (Leinster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster).

  • It's a wet afternoon in Paris.
  • The closer we have got to this game the warier people have been of the task facing Schmidt's men this afternoon - the moniker of favourites doesn't sit too comfortably in Paris.

    But this is a far from vintage France side. More unrest has seen Jacques Brunel replace Guy Noves after Les Bleus endured a miserable 2017 - scraping a draw at home to Japan a particular nadir.

    Brunel has placed his faith in youth this afternoon - the focus will be on 19-year-old outhalf Matthieu Jalibert who is handed a daunting debut.

  • Ireland openside Josh van der Flier will be licking his lips at the prospect of hunting down Jalibert. His mobility should ensure the Bodeaux 10 endures an eye-opening afternoon.

    It will be interesting to see how 21-year-old James Ryan fares in what is likely to be a physical encounter, while Jacob Stockdale makes his Six Nations bow on the wing.

  • 15 mins until kick off!
  • Kick-off is fast approaching - you can read Gerry Thornley's preview from Paris HERE.
  • Here come the teams at the Stade de France, as the Parisian sky begins to darken. Buckle up.
  • Fireworks AND dry ice - they've pulled out all the stops.
  • This is also Bundee Aki's first taste of Six Nations rugby. He's a brilliant addition to this Ireland side.
  • The French rugby public might be disaffected at the moment but their rendition of La Marseillaise is as rousing as ever. Battles lines drawn, challenge accepted.
  • Jalibert to get us started.


  • 1 min: Ireland take the kick and release quickly, the ball sent long to new 15 Palis. Early carry for Gourdon and then Camara, Ireland forcing France into touch.
  • 2 min: Strong start, Ireland winning the lineout and moving it right. Great hands from Bundee Aki in midfield and there's space for Stockdale on the outside, who finds Earls who hares up the right. Ireland then come left with a penalty advantage, Kearney running an arcing line with Henshaw running a good decoy.

    Play comes back for the penalty. It's straight forward for Sexton, inside the 22, and he makes no mistake.


  • 4 min: A start to settle any nerves. Good hanging kick sent up from Ireland and Kearney puts Jalibert under big pressure, the ball squirting to Earls who clears up the touchline.
  • 5 min: France not hanging around and they take the lineout quickly, moving it left where Thomas tries to chip ahead. Good cover from Kearney to snuff out the danger. French lineout - which Ireland pinch!
  • 6 min: Jalibert tries to chip the ball over the Irish line and Earls reads it well. Irish possession on the French 10 and Sexton pins a good kick into the corner.

    Good set piece from the French and Machenaud clears well up the left to relieve the pressure.

  • 8 min: A poor box kick from Murray enables Palis to call a mark. He finds touch where France pinch the lineout after it goes forward off Ryan's arm.
  • 9 min: French ball in the Irish half. Great tackle from Ryan dumps Thomas back. Vakatawa then carries hard and knocks Sexton back.  
  • 10 min: Positive play from France, moving past 10 phases. Neat hands from Palis to Vakatawa on the right but Ireland force a knock on after a big tackle from Kearney. Good Irish defence, it's been a ferocious start but the visitgors have been controlled.
  • 11 min: France put pressure on the Irish scrum but Stander digs it out. Serious linespeed from Les Bleus, Ireland not having much space to breathe around the fringes. Murray with a box kick but there's a great take from Palis. Good read from Henshaw to force a knock-on from machenaud and stall French momentum.
  • 13 min: Ireland concede a scrum penalty and France look to tap and go quickly but Gourdon takes his eye off the ball and spills it. Solid Irish set piece and Murray kicks for the corner, Palis covers and clears to Sexton.
  • 14 min: Murray seizes on a loose ball but blue shirts lock in quickly and win a penalty. It's kicked to touch and Guirado finds Camara at the back. Big tackle from Aki on Chavancy in midfield before Jalibert shows a first glimpse of what he can do, engineering space for Vakatawa with a basketball pass to the left wing, but he kicks out on the full.
  • 17 min: Another big tackle from Aki but he just strays high. French penalty kicked to touch just shy of the 22 on the right.
  • 18 min: Excellent steal from O'Mahony - but Ireland pinged for not matching up on numbers. French scrum.
  • 19 min: This time Ireland get the decision at the scrum - Machenaud pinged for a crooked feed. The referees are clearly going to be hot on that this tournament, it happened twice early on in the Wales game.
  • 20 min: Great take from Murray on halfway, Healy playing scrumhalf and getting driven back. The ball comes to Stockdale on the left wing and he is held up in the tackle - good work from France - but Ireland retain the ball.
  • 21 min: Good hands from Ireland to move the ball out to Earls on the right wing, and he shows a great turn of pace to burst up past the French 10-metre. Henderson carries and there's hands on the ball from Camara - Ireland penalty.

    Sexton will go for goal, it's just off-centre and just outside the 22. Bread and butter - he knocks it over.


  • 24 min: A scrappy passage in midfield, Palis unable to take his own garryown. Thomas is dragged into touch and Ireland again get slick ball off the top, moving it right where Kearney comes into the line and brings Earls in off his wing.
  • 26 min: First big mistake from Ireland, Ryan popping the ball off the deck straight into the chest of Murray as he stooped to pick it up. Slimani is there first and hacks ahead, Kearney sweeping to cover ahead of Jalibert. Murray then clears up the left from inside the Irish five. Good recovery from the visitors.
  • 28 min: Healy draws a scrum penalty from Slimani, which Sexton sends down the touchline. Ireland will be happy with their start.
  • 29 min: Slick Irish ball off the top and Aki races onto a flat pass, smashing into Jalibert. Both are prone on the gorund after - replays show it was a coming together of knees. Ryan makes a good carry at the next phase, a scrambling defender bringing him down by his shorts, before Nigel Owens stops play.

    Jalibert limps off, replaced by Toulon's 21-year-old Anthony Belleau.

  • 30 min: Irish scrum just outside the French 22 - Owens having some stern words with both frontrows. Ireland split their backline - good platform.  

    Solid scrum and Murray goes himself, before Henderson picks and makes good yards. Ireland on the ball inside the French 22.

  • 31 min: France drive Ireland back before Sexton finds a good line to get his side back on the front foot. Ireland keep it tight and grind up to the French five, where Healy gets turned over. Good defence from the hosts.
  • 33 min: Great high kick from Murray and it goes into touch off Vakatawa. Ireland win the lineout and Earls carries in off his wing before Furlong shakes off Guirado. Stander then carries and is stripped by Gourdon. France clear to Kearney who gets isolated and tackled by Guirado - French penalty.  
  • Machenaud will go for goal with the penalty, fairly central on the Irish 10. Good strike, the hosts are on the board.


  • 37 min: Slow ball for Ireland in the middle of the pitch and van der Flier falls into a tackle, his knee buckling and receiving an arm round the chops from Guirado. He's in trouble here - it's his knee - and he's replaced by Dan Leavy.
  • 37 min: Irish scrum and it holds firm, Stander passing to Aki who carries well into the French half. The hosts are defending well, good linespeed. Healy carries well and they get quicker ball, Henshaw finding Aki on an inside line.

    Murray gets cleared out by  Vahaamahina as he looks to recycle - very rash from the secondrow, and he gives away a penalty. Could have been binned for that.

    Sexton will go for goal with the penalty - just left of centre outside the 22 - and he splits the posts.


  • The teams are back out for the second half. If things continue in a similar vein, you'd fancy Ireland to have the greater staying power.

    Sexont has the ball in hand - we're back underway!

  • 41 min: Machenaud takes the restart and clears to touch just short of halfway. Good ball from Best to O'Mahony and Ireland work it to Henshaw for a midfield rumble.  
  • 42 min: Ireland keeping the ball alive, Ryan making another big carry and making yards off slow ball. It's all a bit scrappy though, and O'Mahony knocks it forward trying to flip the ball on in midfield.
  • 44 min: France win their scrum and move left before building the phases in the middle of the park - some truly huge collisions. Good patient defence from Ireland, forcing a turnover through Ryan and Henderson and winning a penalty after Vakatawa comes in from the side.
  • 46 min: Ireland win the lineout but there's a good counter-maul from the French. Ireland keep their cool though, Henderson making a monstrous carry to regain his side's momentum before Lamerat concedes a penalty.

    Great chance for Sexton to extend the lead to two scores - again just outside of the 22 - and he nails it.


  • 48 min: Good, sprightly counter from Earls from the restart. He's looked sharp. Kearney then fields a high kick and comes under presure before  Iturria  concedes a penalty for playing the ball in an offside position.
  • 49 min: Good Irish lineout and quick ball, Henshaw breaking the gainline in midfield. Relentless, hard carrying from Ireland - 10 phases and inside the French 22.
  • 51 min: Ireland up to 15 phases but France slow it down. Furlong looks to regain some impetus but he is brilliantly stripped by Poirot and France can relieve the pressure. Feels like a case of how long France can maintain their intensity in defence - they're having to make a lot of tackles.
  • 53 min: Ireland get pinged for holding on outside their 22.

    Machenaud will go for goal - and he reduces the deficit to six points. Back to a one score game.


  • 55 min: Great kick up the right touchline from Machenaud. He's brought a modicum of control to the French game in the absence of an experienced outhalf. France bringing on new props - Pelisse and Gomes.
  • 56 min: Sustained spell of Irish pressure comes to nothing as Sexton tries to work the wrap-around with Henshaw and the ball goes loose. Good high kick from Machenaud and Keatney spills it on the 10-metre. The French are still in this.
  • 59 min: Excellent scrum from the Irish pack but France will get another bite of the cherry. The set piece is a mess but Machenaud manages to dig it out and find Thomas. And then Stander makes a huge steal on the deck, Sexton relieving the pressure.
  • 61 min: Jack McGrath on for Healy. Irish lineout on the French 22 and Best hits his man. Furlong carries into the 22 and France slow the ball down - but captain Guirado is penalised for not rolling away. It took three blue shirts to stop Furlong there.

    Penalty out to the right and on the 22 - and Sexton snatches at it, hooking it horribly to the left. Poor strike.


  • 64 min: Knock on in the air from Earls. French scrum on halfway. Solid set piece from the hosts and they look left, the ball moved out to Vakatawa on the left wing who scythes into the 22. Good opportunity for France.
  • 65 min: Ireland slow it down on the 22, Machenaud calling in his forwards. Lamerat carries into contact and gets isolated - he's held up by Sexton and Henshaw and  Vahaamahina is penalised for steaming in at the side.
  • 67 min: High kick from Sexton but Palis wins it at the second time of asking. Broken field ball for France and they counter through Vakatawa, who knocks on in the tackle - but it was high from Earls. Belleau finds a good touch up the left. This is starting to get a bit nervy.
  • 68 min: France set the maul from the lineout - new man Toner making a nuisance of himself. It's a mess on the floor but France dig it out. They move it right but get bogged down in midfield again. Belleau kicks in behind but overcooks it, Kearney touching down for a 22.
  • 71 min: Kearney gets taken out in midair by Dupont, but the replacement scrumhalf gets away with it. Ireland don't have much room to work with and use it left where Stockdale knocks on off his bootlaces.

    Owens checks the Kearney replay with the TMO - and upholds his original decision.

  • 71 min: French scrum near the right touchline on the Irish 10-metre. Good scrum and Belleau finds Vakatawa with a crossfield kick, the big wing angling his run back inside and into Sexton who makes a big tackle.
  • TRY FRANCE!!!!!!!
  • Clearing kick from Kearney is out into touch inside the French half. They take it quickly and Chavancy beats his man before finding Thomas on the right wing, he skins Stockdale and has the pace to burn inside past the cover and cross to the right of the posts. Great finish.

    It's converted by Belleau.

    74 MIN: FRANCE 13 IRELAND 12

  • 75 min: Ireland need a response - but there's a simple knock on from a French clearance and the hosts have a scrum in opposition territory.
  • 76 min: Solid French scrum. Dupont looks to snipe and is met with a big tackle. Owens stops the game while he gets treatment - the slower the better for France.
  • 76 min: Dupont limping off and Machenaud coming back on - but there's confusion over whether he went off for an injury or a HIA. They're calling it a HIA - allowing Machenaud to come back onto the field - even though there was no contact with his head. Joke of a decision.
  • 76 min: Huge scrum from the French, who win a penalty just outside the Irish 22.
  • Belleau will go for goal with the penalty - he can put France four points clear. He's dragged it wide.

    78 MIN: FRANCE 13 IRELAND 12

  • 78 min: Sexton takes a short 22 and Henderson reclaims it. Ireland have the ball but are inside their own 10-metre.
  • 79 min: McGrath carries past the Irish 10-metre. This is going to take a herculean effort.
  • 80 min: Slow ball for Ireland. Toner is smashed by  Vahaamahina. They're up to the halfway line after 20 exhausting phases.
  • 81 min: Last play. France driving Ireland back inside their half.

    Sexton switches play with a crossfield kick! Earls leaps to take it, Ireland are up to the French 10.

  • 82 min: 30 phases for Ireland, camped on the French 10-metre, trying to draw a mistake from the French.
  • 83 min: 36 phases, Henshaw drives Ireland back up inside the French 10.
  • 84 min: After 39 phases it's dropped back to Sexton outside the French 10-metre, and he nails the sweetest kick of his life.
  • The man of the moment: "You always know you have once chance."
  • Whisper it quietly but that was a display of Championship-winning character from Ireland.
  • Right, thanks for joining today. Ireland are still on the Grand Slam trail - just.

    Gerry Thornley's match report from Paris will be along shortly.