Ireland don’t normally make quick start against French
France only country to hold outright winning record against Irish in Six Nations
The French team before facing Ireland in 2014. Photograph: Inpho
On Saturday week at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland face a team in France that have proved something of a bête noir since the start of the Six Nations in 2000. The French are the only country to hold an outright winning record against Ireland in the 17 seasons of the tournament, winning nine, losing six, with two matches, in 2012 and 2013, finishing in draws.
From time immemorial Ireland teams used to take a deep breath as they travelled to Paris in the springtime, a state of mind perhaps best illustrated in the statistic they never won a match in Parc des Princes between 1974 and 1996 – Ireland prevailed in the last game played in Stade Colombes in 1972, and won the second one at the Stade de France in 2000.
From 1986 to 1999 France won 14 Five Nations matches in-a-row against Ireland so they were equally at home playing in Lansdowne Road. However, for the purposes of the graphic, the column looks at the head-to-head over the duration of the Six Nations and specifically a breakdown of the timing of tries scored in the matches.
DeniedMost Irish supporters will recall the disappointment of the late try scored by French wing Vincent Clerc in the first rugby match to be played at Croke Park (2007) that denied the home side victory. So were Ireland vulnerable to a late French onslaught? The answer, in dividing a game into four quarters (1-20 minutes, 21-40, 41-60 and 61-80), is no. France scored more tries (11) in the second quarter of matches than any other and what is interesting from the patterns is that they have outscored Ireland in each quarter; eight against five, 11 against six, 10 against eight and 10 against nine.
French teams have scored one fewer try in the opening 40 minutes (19) than they have managed in the second half (20); France have racked up 39 tries to Ireland’s 28 during the period of comparison.
From an Irish perspective, the figures demonstrate there is an upward curve in terms scoring terms from the first quarter through to the fourth and that Irish teams score more tries after half-time (17) than they do in the first half (11).
In Ireland’s six wins during those 17 seasons, they have scored the last try in a match, on three occasions – they didn’t cross France’s line in triumphing in 2015 – while the French managed the same feat in five of their nine victories. In the two drawn games (2012, 2013), Ireland scored their three tries in total in the first half, France responded with two, one in each game, after the interval.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side will be hoping to end a drought in try scoring terms at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday week having failed to cross the line in the last two matches against France; they also did not do so in 2003. In 2015, Jonathan Sexton kicked five penalties and Ian Madigan kicked one in an 18-11 victory and in last year’s Six Nations at the Stade de France, Sexton kicked three penalties in a 10-9 defeat.
So what can be gleaned from the statistics? Ireland teams have scored eight fewer tries in the first half of the matches and it is that discrepancy that stands out more than most. So a quick opening salvo would be preferable as a pre-match goal in try scoring terms and they don’t need to look at the specific history of games against France for that assertion. Murrayfield, a few weeks ago, offers a more short-term reminder.