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dream debut Even if Italy belong in rugby's bargain basement, Ireland head for Paris with a Hugo Boss strut

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Hugo Kenan capped a great Ireland debut with two tries. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Hugo Kenan capped a great Ireland debut with two tries. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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Ireland��s Hugo Keenan scores his second try during the 6 Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 24, 2020. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

Ireland��s Hugo Keenan scores his second try during the 6 Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 24, 2020. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.

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Hugo Kenan capped a great Ireland debut with two tries. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Even on the fantasy island of his imagination, Hugo Keenan could not have imagined a debut so dreamily outlandish.

An afternoon of his life, one that propels the 24-year-old Dubliner toward the world's fashion capital with a new label stitched to his green uniform: Hugo Boss.

Trendy, in vogue, tailor made for the big stage, poised to sashay down a Parisian catwalk in a Saturday night contest that will decide this strange, truncated Six Nations, one Ireland will seize with an admittedly difficult to imagine bonus point victory over France.

On his first appearance in green, Keenan composed a hymn to the beautiful possibilities of professional sport.

His fellow freshman and try scorer Will Connors might have edged him for the Man of the Match bubbly, but the winger drank in a feeling more potent than any champagne.

It was the knowledge that he belongs at the penthouse level.

Denied

Only a referee's review - the rugby equivalent of VAR - denied Keenan becoming the first Irishman in 67 years to mark his international debut with a hat-trick.

Keenan scored two tries, had a third disallowed and provided the jump leads to an Irish side that stalled so badly when last seen at Twickenham all of eight months ago.

An audit of a victory at a ghostly Aviva Stadium comes with any number of asterisks.

Italy - on a 26-match losing streak, having been held scoreless by Wales and Scotland - could not be more out of their depth if they were non-swimmers jumping into the deep Atlantic waters off Dingle to search for Fungie.

Yet, they exposed kinks in the green machine that Andy Farrell must urgently iron away or hopes of an unlikely triumph will be quickly cratered next weekend.

The 17 points they scored, including a try at the death, may prove a grievous wound to a championship that might yet be determined by score difference.

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Hugo Keenan celebrates with his team-mates

Hugo Keenan celebrates with his team-mates

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Hugo Keenan celebrates with his team-mates

Ireland will need to move to another bandwidth of efficiency to have even the smallest chance of repeating the dramatic, buzzer-beating Johnny Sexton inspired victory at Stade De France two years ago.

When confronted by any of the giants of world rugby - namely England and New Zealand - over the past 12 months, Ireland have been impotent to prevent them unsheathing the Grim Reaper's scythe.

So, even if the home side mustered seven tries and won by 33, the jury remains out on whether this facile Saturday stroll amounts to a charge of renewal or merely a temporary diversion from previous patterns of underachievement.

Garry Ringrose is a doubt after his afternoon was abbreviated by a shuddering knee to the chin.

None of this takes from Keenan emblazoning the night with the best of himself.

A schoolboy GAA and soccer star, a rugby slow-burner, he was a team-mate of James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale on an Irish U-20 side that reached the 2016 World Cup final.

But, where that pair were fast-tracked to Broadway, emerging immediately as twin towers of Joe Schmidt's 2018 Grand Slam winners, Keenan built his reputation on the backstreet stages of 7s rugby.

Here, the Blackrock predator delivered daunting evidence of his talent.

Opportunity knocked when Jordan Larmour dislocated his shoulder.

Keenan barged through the opened door, his performance a withering rebuke to the consensus opinion that he is merely keeping the shirt warm for the soon to be Irish qualified Kiwi, James Lowe.

In just six wondrous first-half minutes, he touched down three times in the deserted left corner, one scrubbed off for a Ryan obstruction in the build-up.

Even if Italy belong in rugby's bargain basement, Ireland head for the City of Lights with a Hugo Boss strut.

  • France v Ireland, Six Nations, Saturday 8.10pm, live on Virgin

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