Joe Schmidt will be very satisfied with the France win because confidence was down beforehand and the performances weren’t there. To get a bonus-point win against a strong, physical French team, he’ll be very happy.
France probably made Ireland look better than they were. They’re still a French team and have a lot of good players, but even in the first couple of minutes, you saw them kick the ball, Ireland returned it, and there wasn’t one French player within 40 yards of the ball.
Rory Best goes and scores the first try off the back of that. It was great for us but it was pathetic from the French. As soon as that happened I thought they were in for a hiding. They didn’t look like they wanted to come off the line and put in any big tackles. They were very slow, lethargic, there were knock-ons. out of ill-discipline and stupidity they gave away countless silly penalties.
I’d be very worried if I were France going to Italy next week. It’s the last Six Nations game for a couple of the Italians big players like Ghiraldini and Sergio Parisse. I fancy them to put in a big performance.
Ireland will probably feel they left tries out there though. They went to the corner five or six times in the first half and struggled to get something until eventually, the pressure told.
The late scores take the gloss off it a bit. France didn’t look like scoring all game. They couldn’t hold on to the ball, so it’s probably a little disappointing that the only couple of attacks they had they actually scored off. Andy Farrell will be looking at those this week.
It’s still a much-improved performance from Italy. It’s another important win and it leads nicely into the Wales week.
Larmed and dangerous?
Jordan Larmour came in and did the basics well. He didn’t get tested too much aerially because Ireland had most of the ball and he didn’t have to do much in defence.
The Wales game is going to be a much bigger test.
We don’t need to be fooling ourselves thinking that we beat a world-class team because we didn’t.
But you have to beat the team that’s put in front of you. Jordan had a good game. The French didn’t really look threatening all game, so it’s a bit of weird one to judge anyone on.
He obviously brings something different at full-back. Rob’s very good at covering the grass and very good in the air, that’s his game. Jordan’s game is more about attacking play, so they both bring two different aspects to the game. If you’re looking for bonus points in a World Cup, you might go with Jordan, if it’s going to be a really tight, close Test match you could go for Rob.
But there’s loads of options at full-back. Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Conway, Mike Haley at Munster, there’s a lot of options Joe can go with. That competition for places is only good for Ireland.
In the back-row too, Jack Conan had a great game and made a really big impact off the bench. He’s a good ball carrier and has the engine for it, so I’d imagine he’ll be pushing very hard for selection with his stand-out performances.
There’s a lot of competition in the back-row, but he’s really put up his hand. You can’t ignore that.
He’s obviously competing CJ Stander in his preferred position, and CJ played really well on Sunday, but Jack’s deserved his chance in the team.
Ireland should be confident against Wales
The atmosphere in Cardiff will be electric with them going for the Grand Slam, and it’s a great place to play rugby. An Irish win would give huge momentum heading into the summer.
Wales have been a bit indifferent for me. I haven’t been impressed by France at all, but they still should’ve won the first game. They were 16 points up and, out of pure French madness, they threw an intercept and Wales won the game.
The Welsh got all their momentum from that try and now they’re on for a Grand Slam. It’s a strange one.
Ireland will be quietly confident as Wales haven’t been as good as their record suggests, bar the game against England where they were excellent.
To beat them, Ireland will need to test Wales out wide. They’re a good team in the air, and Ireland usually bank on being good in the kicking game and aerially. Ireland should try to be more expansive if the conditions allow because the Welsh defence is very, very strong. We’ve seen all tournament how tough they are to break down.
It’ll be a big challenge, but Ireland have a great chance to win. The Championship might be out of reach – I don’t give Scotland any chance against England – but we can finish it as best as possible. If we could take that scalp now it would be a good omen for the direction Ireland are heading in before the World Cup.