The Inside Fileby Cillian Ó Conchúir
- ‘Final the only thing in our minds’ – Durcan
- McCarthy sees 4 minutes as Ireland make hard work of Macedonia
- Ireland Class leaves England's Grand Slam in Ruins as 24-8 defeat flatters Johnson
- Heaslip still holds faith in Irish system
- Gallant Ireland fall to defiant French
An unimpressed Jamie Heaslip cut a dejected figure after France went toe-to-toe with France yesterday. He gave a candid response to the agaonising defeat which ended Ireland's championship hopes before it built up speed. "They won. They are still on course to win a Grand Slam. We can't. But I think if anyone is looking at that video we have exposed a lot. You guys have them all hyped up thinking that they are the dog's b*****ks. Well I don't think they are. We have exposed a lot of holes and I think England can definitely cause them a lot of problems."
While Ireland were clinical in breaching the French defense, they conceded nine penalties, seven of which where within kicking distance for Morgan Parra and later Dimitri Yachvili when he was introduced. "Penalties, turn overs," commented Heaslip, "two tries ahead and their still in the game. They get a try and they're ahead. We get a try and they're still ahead. You We played some very good rugby and there are lot of positives. We created chances and caused problems with the ball. A lot of positives, but the negatives are that when you score three tries to one you usually win the game."
Ireland will hope to have Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris fully fit for the trip to Scotland and with Rob Kearney also to return in the coming months, Heaslip believes they will bounce back.
"You have got loads of lads still injured and they are just biting at the bit trying to get back - just like myself. It was a novelty feeling a bit of pain this weekend. I have been sitting around watching games which I am not good at and it was good to get out there and I am sure from talking to Fez (Stephen Ferris), Tommy (Bowe) and some of the other guys, everyone just wants to get out and play.
"Nobody likes sitting on the couch watching games. It is not the easiest thing to get back in the squad. There is a lot of competition there and lads pushing for places and that is what we want, in the year that we have to rely on a squad. The way rugby is you have to rely on the squad. Going forward we have a very strong squad."
While defeat to a French team whose performance was rated 4/10 by their coach Marc Lièvremont could draw some disenchanement, Heaslip has no fears for Ireland going forward. "My own personal belief in the team is that there is no lack of belief, no lack of confidence. We have an exceptionally good group of players here in Ireland. One of the main reasons of me staying around is I think we are on the verge of doing something great.
"We're playing some unbelievable rugby. At times, we give teams easy opportunities to take scores and that can be frustrating and we have to marshal ourselves. Our defense and attack take care of themselves."
It may have been a fine performance in outscoring the French by three tries to one, but despite the what ifs, France still won while playing very poorly. Ireland played some brilliant rugby, but failed. If only Gordan D'Arcy hadn't allowed Aurelien Rougerie steamroll him following the French scrum in the run up to Maxime Medard's try? If only Sean Cronin hadn't knocked on with minutes remaining? If only Jonathan Sexton had kicked the second conversion to stretch Ireland's lead before half time?
Declan Kidney mentioned France's Top 14 professional teams, compared to Ireland's four, in the run up to the defeat. It may be a question about how far this team can go. There is no doubting their ability in the Autumn internationals against the Tri Nations sides (New Zealand and South Africa) and France, but the fact remains. Ireland still lost. Heaslip and Kidney both rejected any thought of casting the type of rugby that they are playing aside. That is good for the entertainment value of Irish games - everyone wants to see running rugby. However, they have to learn to win ugly against big teams, if that is what is called for.
Heaslip still believes in the type of rugby Kidney has brought to the team.
France secured their second win of the RBS Six Nations championship with a 22-25 victory as Lansdowne Road saw a pulsating return to Six Nations rugby. While the victory keeps Marc Lièvremont's Grand Slam ambitions alive, Ireland now look towards the Triple Crown with trips to Edinburgh and Cardiff to come.
Despite an incredible start from Ireland which saw them camped inside the French 22 for most of the opening 10 minutes, From the very first contact, Ireland were in control as French lock, Julian Pierre was pushed into touch after he gathered the kick off.
Ireland inched closer to the French line, first stretching the ball wide right and when it came back wide left Gordan D'Arcy passed to Luke Fitzgerald who touched down in the corner, but the touch judge deemed the pass forward.