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Title holders Ireland hammer France in opening Six Nations clash

Ireland got their bid for unprecedented back-to-back Grand Slams off to the perfect start with a bonus-point 38-17 victory over 14-man France in the opening match of the Six Nations in Marseille on Friday.

Jamison Gibson-Park, Tadhg Beirne, Calvin Nash, Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher all crossed for tries as fly-half Jack Crowley converted all five and hit a penalty.

France had Paul Willemse sent off in the 32nd minute after two yellow cards as the team slipped to their heaviest defeat since Fabien Galthie took over as head coach in 2019.

"We're not going to get carried away here," Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony told ITV.

"We've certainly got a bit of momentum. It was a good performance which is what you want to start off with in a campaign like this. We'll go an analyse it and we want to get better. That's what we want to do and kick on."

France centre Gael Fickou lamented Willemse's sending off.

"They outclassed us in every domain," he said. "Very quickly it was 14 v 15 when 15 v 15 was already very complicated.

"At 14 it was too much of an ask and they had their noses in front too. They thoroughly deserve their victory, there is no debate about that."

Many had pegged this tournament opener as the World Cup final that should have been.

On French soil, the hosts and Ireland looked like the teams destined for the ultimate battle for the Webb Ellis Cup, but eventual winners South Africa and New Zealand had other thoughts, ending both teams' hopes at the quarter-final stage.

While there have been some personnel changes, both Galthie and Ireland counterpart Andy Farrell have espoused policies of an evolution in progress over total revolution, both keen not to describe the match as a potential title decider.


Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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Ireland beat England to win their fourth Six Nations Grand Slam
France resoundingly beat Wales, but lose Six Nations title to Ireland