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'I don't think it gets any better'

REACTION: Ireland coach Andy Farrell said his team’s 38-17 thrashing of France gave them invaluable momentum in their bid to defend their Six Nations title.

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The Irish outscored France – reduced to 14 after Paul Willemse was red carded in the 32nd minute – five tries to two in Marseille to consign the home side to their heaviest defeat since Fabien Galthie took over as head coach in 2019.

“We’d take any type of win, on a Friday night in Marseille to kick off the Six Nations,” said Farrell, praising his team’s composure.

“The more the game went on the more you saw the performance building.

“It wasn’t all singing, all dancing. But we were pretty ruthless when we needed to be.”

Farrell added: “It’s a good start. We have Italy next and getting off to a good start was always going to be a tough ask here. We’ve done that now so we need to grow off the back of it.”

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Ireland outplayed France for large amounts of the game at the Stade Velodrome and Farrell highlighted what he called the “world-class” line-out performance.

“It wasn’t just the attacking line-out, it was the defensive line-out. If you have a platform like that you can be excited about your attack off the back of it,” he said.

Lock Tadhg Beirne was outstanding, as was his rookie partner Joe McCarthy, named man of the match.

“Our set-piece went well and we won our line-out ball. We were in-sync as a team and everyone played their part. It was fantastic,” McCarthy said.

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“It’s never easy to win away in France. We didn’t probably expect to get such a high score but we’re really happy. The atmosphere was absolutely mental, so everyone dug in and it was a fantastic team performance.”

Ireland skipper Peter O’Mahony hailed the win, saying “I don’t think it gets any better”.

“It was a serious Test match. I’m very proud of the lads with our control of the game,” said O’Mahony, made captain after the retirement of Johnny Sexton.

“It was a good start and a good performance.”

Galthie insisted that thoughts would immediately turn to their away trip to Scotland next weekend.

“We were on the backfoot very early, down to 14,” he said. “The Irish played the match, we played at 14.

“It’s a defeat in the opening Six Nations game. We conceded five tries, it’s something we’ll have to deal with, it’s tough.

“But the tournament carries on and there are four games to play. We’re away to Scotland next so we’ll prepare for that.

“We keep our heads up and accept this defeat.”

France skipper Gregory Alldritt, deputising for Antoine Dupont who has opted to concentrate on Sevens ahead of this year’s Paris Olympics, admitted that his team had “wanted to show another face”.

“It’s not the image of the French team we wanted to show,” he said. “Now we’re going to own it, keep our heads up and change it for next week.”

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