The BIG fish that got away
REACTION: Ireland let a victory slip away head coach Andy Farrell said after France secured their first win in Dublin since 2011 with a 15-13 victory this past Sunday.
Farrell will take his side to Italy in a fortnight, having lost their opening two Six Nations games for the first time.
He said it should not have been the case as they had fought back from 3-15 down to give themselves a chance of a win.
Whilst he praised the “work-rate and putting their bodies on the line for their country” the 45-year-old said it is not enough in international rugby.
“Test matches are there to be won, especially at home,” he said.
“We rue a few decisions that we made when some chances came our way.”
He blamed poor decision making in kicking, “sending the forwards into a brick wall” and another poor third quarter of play for their defeat.
Farrell said few had given his side a chance with neither talismanic flyhalf Johnny Sexton nor scrumhalf Conor Murray playing for the first time in a decade in a Six Nations match.
“Even though people were writing us off this week we never wrote ourselves off,” he said.
“The game was there to be won. It was a hard-fought contest but it’s one that slipped away from us at the end.”
Farrell praised both flyhalf Billy Burns – who went off early in the second-half after failing a Head Injury Assessment – and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park.
Burns had shown few signs in an assured first-half display – one wayward penalty aside – of being affected for missing a kick to touch in the dying seconds of the 16-21 defeat by Wales.
Gibson-Park played the whole 80 minutes although he could be faulted for Charles Ollivon scoring France’s first try when down to 14 men.
“I was happy with the lads in the first half,” said Farrell.
“They played some great stuff. Obviously the talking point would have been about the half backs, that was the discussion certainly towards the end of the week and I thought Billy and Jamison did excellent.
“Jamison was on for 80 minutes there. I thought he was outstanding.”
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‘Backs against the wall’
Stand-in captain Iain Henderson said failing to score when France’s Bernard Le Roux was in the sin bin and letting Ollivon touch down was criminal.
“We have to capitalise on their yellow card,” said Henderson.
“Instead of letting them get points, we have to get points in that area, even if it’s a penalty. A try there could change the outcome of the game, how the second half looks and it changes the way France play.
“Ultimately, it changes the whole game.”
The 28-year-old Ulster lock – leading the side for the first time in the absence of both Sexton and James Ryan – said progress was being made.
He praised former captain Paul O’Connell for making an immediate impact as forwards coach on the performance of the line-out.
“Paulie has been a huge driver,” said Henderson.
“The details he brings and the passion, and obviously everyone looks up to Paulie, so his words carry a lot of weight.”
However, Henderson admitted whilst the championship was more than likely out of their reach with just two losing bonus points they had to salvage something.
“Ultimately we’ve got three games left, our backs are against the wall,” he said.
“We have to pull out performances not just for the next game but the next three games.”