Irish must beware
History book shows that nothing comes easy to Ireland at the Stade de France
Statistics can be as tangible and misleading as a grand illusion.
For instance, Ireland have beaten France in three of their last five internationals and drawn the other two.
The mystic and hoodoo that the French once held over the Irish has been binned for better days.
The annual expectation of failure has been replaced by the fear of it.
However, the history books reveal that Ireland have come away from French soil with 11 victories from 45 visits, just less than one-in-four.
The most recent memory of Ireland's Six Nations experiences at Stade de France was the two-point triumph in 2014.
Ireland's previous victory in Paris was from Brian O'Driscoll's immortal hat-trick in 2000.
Before that, the Irish had to go all the way back to 1972 at Stade Colombes and the tries from Johnny Moloney and Ray McLaughlin that sealed a 14-9 win.
For all of that, the message should be heeded the thought of Ireland travelling to Paris in springtime is usually followed by disappointment, even disaster.
Saturday, March 15 2014
France . . . . 20 IRELAND . . . 22
"It was last-leg stuff and I know now why I'm packing it in because 80 minutes is a long bloody time at international level." - Brian O'Driscoll
The last Six Nations encounter in Paris was that epic end in which Dave Kearney's split-second decision in defence caused a forward pass from second row Pascal Pape to Damien Chouly.
This was followed by the sight of giant lock Sebastien Vahaamahina being swallowed up by Chris Henry, Devin Toner and Paul O'Connell for a turnover. The reaction of the Irish players to that final whistle was illustrated by Jamie Heaslip's clenched fists as he dropped to his knees.
It made all the difference between winning and losing the Championship as the curtain closed on Brian O'Driscoll's international career.
Sunday March 4, 2012
France . . . . 17 IRELAND . . . . 17
'There's certainly a big feeling of defeat and an opportunity lost. We're really disappointed with our second half performance."
- Paul O'Connell
Where previously Ireland had tended to fall behind and mount a brave rebuttal, this was the one they carelessly threw away.
It was simply gross negligence on their part to go to the bother of creating a 17-6 lead built on Tommy Bowe's two fine tries and the surgical goal-kicking of Jonathan Sexton.
They had France right where they wanted them only to fall apart when they looked like they had it all figured out.
The failure of Ireland to add to the scoreboard came back to haunt them. By the end, they were hanging on for a draw after Wesley Fofana's try in a match they should have had wrapped up by the end of the third quarter such was their superiority and the number of gilt-edged chances that went untaken.
Saturday February 13, 2010
France . . . . 33 IRELAND . . . . 10
"We made some bad defensive errors. I can't imagine how many there were. We played quite poorly and were never able to string phases together."
- Brian O'Driscoll
The French were quickly out of the traps to bring the crowd into this game.
That's never a good thing in Paris.
Cian Healy was shown a yellow card for an illegal tackle on Francois Trinh Duc and the home side swagger yielded ten points in as many minutes.
It marked the 10-year anniversary of O'Driscoll's greatest day in green.
They came with the confidence gleaned from the 2009 Grand Slam and an unprecedented period of Irish domination, at least in Europe.
They left emptied of everything they brought in what was yet another example of how the French can turn it on like no other when the mood takes them.
It was a hurtful and decisive end to Ireland's 12-match unbeaten stretch.
Saturday February 9, 2008
France . . . 26 IRELAND . . . . 21
"We gave ourselves way too much to do. You can't come here and do what we did in the first-half." - Brian O'Driscoll
There was something of the same old story about this galling game.
Ireland plummeted to a 20-point deficit early into the second-half as they were torn asunder by a Vincent Clerc hat-trick and another from his Toulouse team-mate Cedric Heymans.
This time, Ireland came within a whisker of a glorious comeback as they rebounded through the forward pack to ground out a penalty try and take another from David Wallace.
It all came down to a burst from centre Brian O'Driscoll, who was not able to find Geordan Murphy with the final pass.
For once, the master was denied a golden moment against a nation he had more good individual moments than bad.
Saturday February 11, 2006
France . . . .43 IRELAND . . . 31
"It was literally a game of two halves. The second half was how to do it and the first was how not to do it."
- Gordon D'Arcy
This had all the appearance of the single most embarrassing day in Irish rugby.
The boys in green were shredded for six tries by the 48th minute as Aurelien Rougerie, Olivier Magne, David Marty, twice, and Heymans, twice, reduced the Irish to a quivering wreck to leave them 43-3 in the gutter.
The combination of France's natural mindset to switch off and Ireland's desperation led to a remarkable reaction.
It produced four tries from Ronan O'Gara, Gordon D'Arcy, Donncha O'Callaghan and Andrew Trimble to trim the difference to twelve points with time on the clock.
Unbelievably, the French were out on their feet and hanging on at the end.