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Mick Galwey: Magnificent Ireland have the aura of the All Blacks now

Andy Farrell’s men hammer the second best team in the world who are also the reigning Grand Slam champions

James Lowe of Ireland shows great skill to score a try at the Aviva against France. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Conor Murray of Ireland is tackled by Ethan Dumortier of France at Aviva Stadium. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images© Getty Images

11 February 2023; James Lowe of Ireland scores his side's second try despite the tackle of Damian Penaud of France during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Mick GalweySunday World

Before the match I thought Ireland would beat France in the Aviva yesterday.

Yet I’ll freely admit that not for one minute did I think they would do it like that.

Winning by 13 points, getting a try-bonus point, not allowing France get one – and all that as we left at least three tries behind us because we could not get the ball down on the ground.

I wrote here last week that we could have scored 50 against Wales.

Christ we could have got 50 yesterday against France, no bother, with just a little more clinical finishing around the opposition try-line.

And you know, that is the great thing. Because Andy Farrell and his coaches will go away and work hard for a fortnight now until we play Italy, on how we make sure we score every time we get close in.

That facet of the game was about the only thing that went wrong for Ireland yesterday as they hammered the second best team in the world. And also the reigning Grand Slam champions – yes that is what they did.

Regular readers of my column in the Sunday World for years will know that I have always preached Ireland cannot win in rugby without all our best players on the pitch.

That we just don’t have the volume to succeed when we are short of top men.

Well, yesterday none of Robbie Henshaw, Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Sheehan or Tadhg Furlong could play.

Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Beirne had to go off within a few minutes of the restart.

In those circumstances, I just did not see yesterday happening. I take it all back.

I mean, look at Tom O’Toole in the second half. I’ve never really seen the Ulster prop as international quality. I do now! And boy the French know of him too. He thundered into their pack and knocked them over in a brilliant cameo.

Craig Casey too, at scrum-half, was superb, upping the tempo when France wanted to slow it down as their lungs screamed like Roberto Duran, ‘No mas’ –no more.

Am I surprised at how well the replacements played?

No, because Irish rugby now has one thing in common with the All Blacks, that there is now an aura around the green jersey, same as there is with the black one. When you wear it now, you expect to play well and to win!

No one shows that more than Caelan Doris. What an athlete, as he took control of the match in the last 15 minutes with some thundering carries and some excellent positional play.

God, there must be Mayo men thinking that if he’d stuck with the Gaelic Football, that we’d have a couple of All-Irelands by now.

Conor Murray of Ireland is tackled by Ethan Dumortier of France at Aviva Stadium. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images© Getty Images

Imagine Doris at midfield for the Green and Red!

Ireland played the second half in France’s territory, and that was huge, because you break a team’s will like that.

I know, France scored from their own half in the first period, but that was off a slack Irish kick and a bouncing ball that went backwards to a French hand when it might have as easily gone forward.

Damien Penaud did brilliantly for that try, but Farrell’s men didn’t make that mistake a second time.

Every Irish kick in the second half was precise, into touch or turning the French defence around and forcing them to run towards their own posts.

I can’t let this piece end without having a go at referee Wayne Barnes.

Watching the U-20s’ match between Ireland and France on Friday night, the New Zealand referee down in Cork gave yellow cards for any contact with the head at all, that’s the World Rugby rule. But if you lead with the head, it is an automatic red.

Barnes got two things wrong. He didn’t send off Uini Atonio, and he didn’t tell Rob Herring to go off immediately for a HIA.

Herring was eventually asked to leave and he didn’t come back. So he must have been hit in the head.

If we want to make our game safe for our players, leading with the head has to be a straight red.

The ref got it badly wrong there.

Thank God, Ireland’s players didn’t get anything wrong.

Yesterday, Ireland could have waved goodbye to the Championship and to the Grand Slam.

Instead we have ten points from our first two games.

You would have snapped anyone’s hands off for that ten days ago.

Now we build and go on to Italy on Saturday week in Rome.

The weekend off gives some of the injured players a chance to come back.

But success means Farrell may not give the likes of Robert Balacoune, Ryan Baird or Gavin Coombes the chance to play in Rome.

In different circumstances this is the match in whuich you would introduce younger, inexperienced, lads to the Six Nations.

Not now, now when we have two legs of the Grand Slam down.

After Italy there is another two week break to playing Scotland away.

So I suspect Ireland will use much the same team against the Italians in Rome. Because now it is two down, three to go.

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