Air of resignation around France after latest humiliation

Les Bleus held the ball in hand in Ireland’s 22 for a grand total of 22 seconds on Sunday

Gerry Thornley and Liam Toland reflect on Ireland’s 26-14 win over France, which keeps Joe Schmidt’s side in the title race going into the final week of the 2019 Six Nations. Video: David Dunne

 

“The Shipwrecked” screamed L’Equipe in the aftermath of this latest French depression. The “disastrous” numbers do not lie. Ireland camped in their 22 for 89 percent territorial gain in the opening 40 minutes. Seventy-seven per cent possession “for Sexton and his band.”

France had the ball in hand in Ireland’s 22 for a grand total of two seconds.At best Jacques Brunel initially cut a forlorn figure. There was an elongated pause at the start of the French coach and captain press conference when it seemed like they had never been in this scenario before.

There were no questions. It almost reached the point where Brunel and Guilhem Guirado would avoid an inquisition.

But then it started: You were outrageously dominated in the first period?

“They had 99 per cent possession,” Brunel sarcastically responded. “We didn’t have the ball in the first half so we didn’t have the chance to do anything.

“They choked us.”

He offered no reason why this was allowed to happen. It just was.

“At the end we showed a different face but we made too many mistakes in defence.”

Brunel genuinely clung to the two late tries as a positive for France but their wildly inconsistent performances six months from the World Cup kept coming up and he kept avoiding the question.

“We knew Ireland was better than us,” he conceded. “They had more confidence than us. We thought we could embarrass them early in the game, but that was not the case. We showed character in the second half and kept going to the end.”

Guirado, the fiery hooker and on field leader of this rabble, spoke without the need for a question. He definitely mentioned “plan B” but presumably to note a lack thereof. No translation followed Brunel’s other answers. Resignation was in the air. Not by France’s head coach but from the travelling media. How this plays out is already known, they are trapped in a familiar pattern which is plain for all to see.

The only question is whether Brunel’s old pal – FFR president Bernard Laporte – allows him to continue until the World Cup in Japan.

What is certain is France leave Dublin firmly back in the groove of an eight year slump since reaching the 2011 World Cup final, having produced a performance that can barely be described as resistance.

At the end Brunel calmly got up and moved on. He did not seem stressed. Actually, he looked like he was away on an evening stroll.

In the revolving door came the smiling head of Joe Schmidt and Rory Best.

That was the end of their Dublin Six Nations days as coach and captain of the most successful Irish team ever.

“Yeah look, obviously it wasn’t something I overly thought about but the last 24 hours it was strange to hop on the bus here for the last time,” said Best. “If you plan your last home game here, that’s what you want, just with the intensity of the first half.”

The body language between coach and hooker, Ireland versus France, was stark.

“Joe got very emotional and told me he wasn’t allowing me to keep going after he left, so it is what it is!”

Will Schmidt miss these unending days and nights?

“Immensely. It’s been six incredible years for me here.”

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