Farrell hails Ireland's strength of character after statement win over France

Ireland players celebrate as Garry Ringrose (centre) scores their side's fourth try of the game during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday Picture: Brian Lawless/PA
Ireland players celebrate as Garry Ringrose (centre) scores their side's fourth try of the game during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

Guinness Six Nations: Ireland 32 France 19

Ireland reaffirmed their status as the world’s number one ranked side after they saw off current Six Nations champions France in an all-time classic in Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

With just one defeat in their last 10 outings, Ireland were coming up against a French side gunning for win number 15 on the bounce. It had all the ingredients for a classic and that’s exactly what was served up.

The first half in particular being a showcase for all that is great about rugby union.

From Hugo Keenan’s line break for the game's opening try, to Caelan Doris, whose extraordinary offload led for Garry Ringrose’s bonus-point try in the final minutes, spectators from both countries left the Dublin 4 venue in awe with talking points aplenty.

There was the wizardry of French captain Anton Dupont. The French captain also delivered an incredible feat of strength to deny Mack Hansen a try. The dancing feet of Damian Penaud. The hard carrying of Josh van der Flier. The hits from Caelan Doris and Yoram Moefana.

It was a contest that kept everyone in a sold-out Aviva Stadium on the edge of their seat from minute one to eighty, but in the end, it was Ireland who showed that greater cutting edge in attack to claim the all-important win.

First half tries from Hugo Keenan, James Lowe and on his 50th cap, Andrew Porter, helped the Irish to a six-point lead at the break 22-16.

France’s response was a fabulous Damian Penaud effort on 18 minutes which briefly shot the visitors into the lead.

It was no surprise to see that the tempo dipped somewhat after the break. A scrappy third quarter yielded just one score a piece with Ramos drop goal wiping out Ross Byrne’s earlier penalty.

Byrne entered the fray in the 48th minute after captain Jonathan Sexton was forced off to a leg injury and the Leinster man slotted into the most discussed position in Irish sport with relative ease. Keeping France on the back foot, Byrne went on to add a 73rd minute conversion to the scoreboard when Garry Ringrose dotted down after a most outrageous pass from Doris.

With French centre Gael Fickou wrapped around, Player of the match Doris was still able to pick out Ringrose who skipped in from the left to confirm Ireland’s win.

Afterwards head coach Andy Farrell said that the victory was down to the spirit with the group as much as anything.

“The character more than anything,” said Farrell.

“To find the want to cover each other’s back. To show the togetherness and the spirit that we know we’ve got and to show it to everyone else in world rugby is there to be seen.

“We could talk for hours in that regard of instances and people playing not too much rugby and coming back and putting performances like that when the chips are really down in big games. It shows a lot of character.”

After losing Rob Herring in the first half, Farrell also must wait and see what the extent of what Tadhg Beirne’s injury is. Beirne was forced off just five minutes into the second period, just three minutes before Sexton’s withdrawal. Afterwards Farrell admitted that it didn’t look good for the Munster man.

Losing three key players so early in the game could give cause for disruption on the field. But in another test of Ireland’s squad depth, the players coming in showed that they have what it takes to deliver at the highest level, and against the best that the game has to offer.

“Tom O’Toole has played no rugby at all and he came on making line breaks and unbelievable carries. Bundee’s (Aki) not played any rugby. Ronan (Kelleher), he’s been out injured for a couple of weeks and the performance that he showed.

“I think Ross (Byrne), his game in general has been outstanding this year and deserves his chance to get that Ireland shirt because it’s been tough for him over that last couple of years.

“I’m hugely proud of the lads, of what they’ve been through over the last few weeks. They dug in hard, it meant a lot to them today and it showed.”

Ireland: H Keenan, M Hansen, G Ringrose, S McCloskey, J Lowe, J Sexton, C Murray, A Porter, R Herring, F Bealham, T Beirne, J Ryan, P O’Mahony, J Van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher for Herring (26), I Henderson for Beirne (45), R Byrne for Sexton (48), J Conan for O’Mahony (57), C Casey for Murray (57), T O’Toole for Bealham (62), B Aki for McCloskey (66), D Kilcoyne for Porter (70).

Tries: Keenan (9), Lowe (21), Porter (27), Ringrose (72)

Conversions: Sexton (10, 27,) Byrne (73)

Penalties: Sexton (40), Byrne (59)

France: T Ramos, D Penaud, G Fickou, Y Moefana, E Dumortier, R Ntamack, A Dupont, C Baille, J Marchand, U Atonio, T Flament, P Willemse, A Jelonch, C Ollivon, G Alldritt.

Replacements: R Taofifenua for Willemse (45), S Macalou for Alldritt (52), R Wardi for Baille (57), S Falatea for Atonio (57), M Jalibert for Ramos (63), F Cros for Ollivon (70), G Barlot for Marchand (73), B Couilloud,.

Tries: Penaud (18)

Conversions: Ramos (19)

Drop Goal: Ramos (62)

Penalties: Ramos (5, 15, 33)

Yellow Cards: Atonio (26)

Referee: Mr W Barnes (RFU)