Rugby

Ireland have ‘massive belief’ after demolishing France – Tadhg Beirne

The reigning Grand Slam champions were a class above at Stade Velodrome.

Tadhg Beirne claimed the second of Ireland’s five tries in Marseille
Tadhg Beirne claimed the second of Ireland’s five tries in Marseille Tadhg Beirne claimed the second of Ireland’s five tries in Marseille (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Tadhg Beirne says Ireland are brimming with “massive belief” after launching their Guinness Six Nations title defence with a landmark demolition of pre-tournament favourites France.

Andy Farrell’s reigning Grand Slam champions made a statement of intent in Marseille with a stunning 38-17 bonus-point win to propel themselves into pole position for further championship glory.

Ireland were a class above at Stade Velodrome, albeit their cause was aided by a first-half red card for France second-row Paul Willemse.

Munster lock Beirne, who claimed the second of five Irish tries en route to his country’s biggest victory away to Les Bleus, said the performance was a “special feeling”.

“You can’t really expect to beat France by a score like that,” he said.

“You always think it’s going to be a tight game and maybe if there wasn’t a red card it might have been a bit tighter but who knows?

“We also knew that with our ability and the way we play that we were going to be able to take it to this French team.

“Within this group, there’s a massive belief. It’s such an enjoyable group to be with and such an enjoyable group to play with; the way we play we all love it.

Ireland made a stunning start to their Guinness Six Nations title defence
Ireland made a stunning start to their Guinness Six Nations title defence Ireland made a stunning start to their Guinness Six Nations title defence (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Everyone’s involved and I felt from the get-go that we were just on it.

“It’s a special feeling when you’re in a game and everyone is doing their job right and everything is flowing.”

Both sides went into a mouth-watering tournament curtain-raiser on the back of agonising World Cup quarter-finals exits.

Jamison Gibson-Park, Six Nations debutant Calvin Nash, Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher were also on the scoresheet on Friday evening to ensure Farrell’s men bounced back from their last-eight World Cup exit to New Zealand.

Man of the match went to 22-year-old Leinster lock Joe McCarthy, who more than justified his selection ahead of James Ryan and Iain Henderson by producing a colossal display on his first appearance in the championship.

Beirne believes there is plenty more to come from his second-row partner, affectionately dubbed ‘Big Joe’.

“Well, he certainly was Big Joe out there,” said Beirne.

“He was physical, he did exactly what everyone was hoping that he would do and everything that we expected him to do. He does it in training, he’s so athletic and credit to him.

“What a first start in the Six Nations for Joe. There’s a lot more to come from him for sure.”

Ireland move on to a second-round clash at home to Italy after beginning the post Johnny Sexton era with a bang.

Fly-half Jack Crowley filled the void left by Sexton’s retirement, overcoming some errors to nail each of his five conversions and add a penalty.

Back-row forward Caelan Doris praised the impact of Test rookies Crowley, Nash and McCarthy.

“Momentum’s big in the Six Nations, we know that from previous years and it’s a pretty tough start coming over here,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a cauldron here, the French supporters are like no others in terms of volume – apart from the Irish, of course.

Ireland’s Jack Crowley kicked 13 points on his first Six Nations start
Ireland’s Jack Crowley kicked 13 points on his first Six Nations start Ireland’s Jack Crowley kicked 13 points on his first Six Nations start (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We were aware of what we were coming into and it was just about playing our game.

“Obviously we’ve lost key figures, like Johnny, over the last number of months but other guys stepped up and it was a great night.

“It was class to see the likes of Joe and Jack step up massively and put in great performances.”