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paris flop No excuses - Andy Farrell's Ireland side has some serious work to do on the training pitch

Poor handling and decision-making see our title hopes evaporate

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CJ Stander is about to cross the whitewash for Ireland.

CJ Stander is about to cross the whitewash for Ireland.

CJ Stander is about to cross the whitewash for Ireland.

Springtime in Paris is only occasionally any good to Ireland, playing France away in the Autumn was no better last night.

Ireland were well beaten by a classy French side that I really like the look of. I'll come back to them later because they could be on the cusp of something special.

But, for Ireland, this was a disappointing defeat. We were given a lesson in clinical finishing by the home team.

By contrast, Ireland butchered a couple of good chances for tries with poor handling and decision-making.

A key example of the latter was the decision not to take a penalty kick in first-half injury time, when Johnny Sexton would surely have kicked it to leave just a point between the teams.

Instead, we went for the jackpot of a seven-pointer from a line-out and didn't make it. When you take a decision to spurn three points like that in a tight Test match, you've got to come up with the goods.

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Andy Farrell watched as his side were well beaten in Paris. Photo: Sandra Ruhaut/Sportsfile

Andy Farrell watched as his side were well beaten in Paris. Photo: Sandra Ruhaut/Sportsfile

Andy Farrell watched as his side were well beaten in Paris. Photo: Sandra Ruhaut/Sportsfile

Veteran

Writing of the line-out, Ireland's wasn't a thing of beauty in Paris.

Newcomer Ryan Baird and the veteran Peter O'Mahony will have been looking at it and saying, 'I can do better than that'.

Leinster hooker Niall Kelleher, too, will be putting up his hand for a chance to throw in for Ireland.

In fact, the Irish line-out became a mess as the game progressed.

Serious work needs to be done on the training ground before Ireland play again, and, perhaps, changes in personnel are needed, too.

As ever, referee Wayne Barnes was his usual picky self when he comes to officiate at Ireland matches.

But we can't blame Ireland's less-than-favourite English referee for this defeat. The better team won, it was a simple as that.

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Johnny Sexton didn’t see the game out last night. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton didn’t see the game out last night. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Sexton didn’t see the game out last night. Photo: Sportsfile

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Ireland started the match so well, so it was a shocking setback to lose a try to France in the manner they did - which was a moment of hesitation by two players.

Instead of going to catch Antoine Dupont's box-kick, both Hugo Keenan and Jacob Stockdale waited for the ball to go into touch.

It never did, France kept it alive and worked it down the pitch, through their superb winger superb Gael Fickou, for Dupont to score.

Mistake

Sorry, that's a basic mistake. And the higher you go in rugby's pyramid, the more likely basic errors are to be punished.

And, believe me, trying to win a Six Nations title in Paris is about as high on the pyramid as it can go.

Then, Stockdale made another basic mistake and let France in for a penalty try.

By God, how that shoulder injury to Jordan Larmour, when playing for Leinster in Italy last month, is hurting us now.

Caelan Doris shouldn't have done what he did either. In yesterday's hurling matches, we saw players cynically being pulled down when they threatened to score a goal.

In rugby, if you tackle a player without the ball near the try-line, you'll concede a penalty try and be stuck in the sin-bin, too.

Let them have the try is the smart play. But, then, Caelan is young and only learning as an international. That's something big for him to take out of last night.

And it is all about picking up experience.

Realistically, Ireland winning the Six Nations went out the window with England's bonus-point win in Rome earlier yesterday.

We can put this season, as a whole, down to a new coach finding his way as we build off 2019 and the Joe Schmidt-era.

We've found two good new players in Hugo Keenan and Will Connors, and there are two more to come, I believe, in second-row Baird and winger James Lowe.

I look forward to them getting their chances in the matches later this month in the re-jigged Autumn internationals.

Skinny

As ever, Ireland's skinny playing resources mean we could not carry the injury-absences of Larmour, Keith Earls and Garry Ringrose.

As for France, well they are already clearly building up to an all-out push to win the World Cup as the hosts in 2023.

They have a powerful, mobile, pack that will only get better in that time.

In Romain Ntamack and Dupont they have the best young half-back pairing in the world of rugby.

If our coach Andy Farrell's job description was all about doing as well as we possibly could at the 2023 World Cup, he'd have licence to drop the likes of Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy and CJ Stander, the players whose age-profile suggests they'll have trouble holding onto a green shirt for another three seasons.

But no, Andy's remit is to win the next match up - no more, no less.

France have enough good young players to take a risk, but they have such a pick to choose from that while taking a risk on youth, they can still be competitive in the Six Nations.

The competitor in Sexton was not at all happy to be taken off. The fire was there, but the execution wasn't.

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