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Monday 5 December 2016

Five things we have learned from this victory

Ireland's Robbie Henshaw gets past France's Mathieu Bastareaud (right) during the Rugby World Cup match at Millennium Stadium
Ireland's Robbie Henshaw gets past France's Mathieu Bastareaud (right) during the Rugby World Cup match at Millennium Stadium

Life without Sexton and O'Connell may not be as terrifying as we once feared

IRELAND CAN COPE WITHOUT SEXTON

Johnny Sexton hobbled off after 25 minutes in Cardiff but Wales far from crumbled, as Ian Madigan produced an impressive display as replacement fly-half. Madigan kicked eight important points off the tee and his performance suggests all may not be lost for the Irish even without their star player.

HENSHAW IS THE REAL DEAL

Robbie Henshaw unleashed his best-ever display in an Ireland shirt, finally coming of age with a stirring performance at inside centre. His display was epitomised by a brilliant break in the second half, which left France's Mathieu Bastareaud for dead.

TEST RUGBY HAS NEVER BEEN MORE BRUTAL

Injuries to Sexton, Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony, not to mention an off-the-ball pun ch from Sean O'Brien on Pascal Pape, prove Test rugby has never been more brutal. High-class contests may give sides rhythm and confidence going into the knock-out stages but there are the physical consequences too, as Ireland have found to their cost.

FRANCE HAVE IT ALL TO DO TO BEAT THE ALL BLACKS

France typically save their best form for the biggest stages of all but there was little here to suggest Les Bleus will trouble reigning champions New Zealand in the last eight. Mercurial they may be, but the French will need a complete transformation if they are to make the semi-finals.

CARDIFF PROVES ITS WORTH ONCE AGAIN

The Millennium Stadium was bouncing for all 80 minutes of this pulsating contest and the pity is only that it will not host any World Cup fixtures beyond the quarter-finals. With the roof closed, every roar was amplified to the maximum and it is no wonder this was perhaps the fastest and most intense match of the tournament so far.

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