by Brendan Cole
Brent Pope. RTÉ Analyst: "Paul O’Connell and his team are going to be gutted, and Ireland probably deserved to win”.
Tommy Bowe is man of the match. His verdict: "Nobody likes a draw".
Willie (via e-mail): "I thought Rob Kearney was man of the match rather than Tommy. Rob was exceptional on the day. What do the panel think."
The panel have described Kearney's display as "one of the great performances by a full-back".
FULL-TIME: France 17-17 Ireland
80 mins The scrum is reset twice as the French crowd sing La Marseillaise. But we get a live one, and though it doesn't last long, the scrum is tortuous with both sides terrified of conceding anything. Pearson won't be making a call, and Harinordoquy pulls it out and France attack down their left wing but Ireland hold firm and Malzieu is shoved to touch.
A draw is the result, which means that despite getting together twice for matches this fixture will have no winner this year.
79 mins The lineout throw is missed but O'Mahony gets the bouncing ball. But then Heaslip drops the ball and it will be a scrum to France just inside the Irish half. Servat and co may try to force a penalty.......
78 mins Ireland do enough to disrupt the ball but it is slapped back on the French side. They keep it tight, and a few drives sees them make it to the Irish 22 with Beauxis back in the pocket but his effort is charged by desperate Irish chasers, Stephen Ferris getting to him in time and France now have the ball but are back on their 10m line.
Such tension.....they begin to pick and drive again, and after a 'choke' goes wrong, make it to the Irish 22, where a big hit by Ferris halts Rougerie. The big Ulsterman has been incredible and after another huge tackle by him, Heaslip latches on the ball and gets a holding on call. O'Gara then punts up to inside the French half.
Maybe Ireland will have the final chance.
74 mins O'Gara takes a sneaky dropout to himself and Ireland make it up to halfway but a ruck is undermanned and Pearson spots an Irish hand shovelling the ball back. Penalty France, which Beauxis kicks to touch on the 22. Cronin and Court are on for Healy and Best in the Irish front row. That could be important.
France have a lineout on the Irish 22.
71 mins Ireland scrabble to win the lineout but it is claimed and a high kick is put up, but the Irish pressure is lifted when Ireland are judged to have interfered with the French catcher - Trinh-Duc. A harsh call as he looked to have messed up on his own. Beauxis is on and he punts the kick long to touch on the Irish 22m line. The lineout is won and after a couple of phases, Beauxis tries a drop goal but he snaps it - really badly actually - and Ireland have a 22 dropout.
McFadden is on for Trimble.
70 mins The lineout is won and this time Trimble catches. He runs it back and Ireland have the ball on the French 10m line. Sexton tries a kick, but it is too high and slow and Trinh-Duc catches easily in the 22 and kicks to touch up near halfway.
Tony Ward on co-comm will not be only man who reckons Ronan O'Gara might have done better, and the Corkman arrives right on cue but in place of D'Arcy. Sexton will play 12.
Louis Picamoles replaces Bonnaire for the French.
69 mins The scrum collapses but again, Pearson encourages play to continue and Trinh-Duc kicks it long to Kearney. He puts up another high ball and soars up over Harinordoquy to claim it - what a performance. The ball is moved wide to Earls but France are live to the danger and he is tackled to touch by Bonnaire. Their lineout 10m from their tryline as the awful conditions continue to deteriorate - the rain is pounding down.
66 mins Ireland win this lineout but after some terrific battling carries, D'Arcy lets the ball slip from his hands as he tried to pass it wide from first receiver. France scrum just inside their own 22 and in a central position.
Ferris' jersey was ripped off as he fought to get going in midfield and a replacement is brought on, which gives a brief respite.
65 mins But Rory Best overthrows and Trinh-Duc gratefully grabs it at the back and after a ruck, he punts a long ball to touch outside the French 22m line. Peter O'Mahony is on for O'Brien now, the Carlow man shakes his head as he walks off.
64 mins The lineout is mauled with pace and power by France, 15 quick yards are made and a psychological blow to the Irish pack is delivered. But France can’t keep the ball secure, and it spills out the side of a ruck to Best. A high kick is put up towards Poitrenaud but he catches. Trinh-Duc kicks long to Kearney but he streaks through a dozy French chase, only get caught by their backfield men.
And Ireland are on the attack on the French 22m line, with Earls and O’Brien having carries before the pace is lost from the attack. But it returns when Sexton races into the French 22, selling a dummy as France eyed the wide men. Ireland are 10m from the line when Ferris is shoved towards touch but his desperate pass infield hits a French foot on the way into touch – Ireland lineout, 7m from their line.
Huge break to get that call in Ireland's favour.
59 mins France win the scrum, Parra clearing it away as Ross pops up in the front row. It is kicked long to Kearney and he puts up a high ball which Harinordoquy catches. Kearney arrives at the same time and smashes the number eight but the next ruck sees Ireland infringe and Trinh-Duc puts a kick into touch on the Irish 10m line. Nallet is on for Pape in the French second row. Nallet is another with an excellent scrum reputation.
58 mins Donnacha Ryan is on for O'Callaghan.
The Irish re-start is long and from the ruck, Parra puts up a high kick, that Murray can't catch. He stays down clutching his knee after that - it looks bad for the young scrum-half, it is not good to see. The replay shows an obvious hyperextension on landing and he is stretchered off to sympathetic applause and Eoin Reddan will come on.
Scrum to France will get the match going again.
56 mins Maestri wins the lineout and Trinh-Duc kicks but it is poor, bobbling in front of Kearney and he has a run, and almost gets through but a desperate tackle by the French 10 sees Kearney slide into touch, on half-way. France lineout.
They win it, and Fofana carries into contact. Healy attempts a turnover but for not releasing the tackled player - Pearson's judgement is probably just about correct - a penalty is given to France. From the 10m line, Parra has a shot and knocks it over with a clean strike. Back to level scores: 17-17.
54 mins The restart is won by Pascal Pape and then mauled forward. Parra puts up a high kick but a truly spectacular overhead catch by Kearney gives Ireland the ball on halfway. Ireland attack through a few phases before an ill-judged Best offload goes to ground. With the momentum gone, Sexton tries to kick to the corner but puts it out on the full. Lineout to France on half-way, and Ireland need to recover their composure.
50 mins TRY FRANCE France win the scrum and Trinh-Duc boots it long, where Kearney catches. His return ball is far too long and they set it up. Then, in a heartbeat, Fofana gets over the Irish tryline from halfway. The ball hit the deck as it moved along the backline and both D'Arcy and Earls will wish they had thrown themselves on it when they see replays. Fofana just picked it up and raced over, beating Kearney to the corner for his third try in three Six Nations games.
There is a letoff as Parra pulls the kick wide and right but the gap is down to three.
49 mins The restart is won by Ireland and the ball is quickly moved to Heaslip out wide. He looks like being held up on the 22m line but O'Connell mills into the contact and Ireland win the ball, and then he carries forward. Ireland are keeping the ball but not making ground and then a poor piece of play sees Trimble and Heaslip drop the ball as they tried to engineer a break. Scrum to France is the ball.
William Servat - a superb scrummager - is set to come on after this scrum.
46 mins PENALTY FRANCE France win the lineout but their maul is not great. However, Pearson is showing advantage for them and after Rougerie’s hard carry is well handled in the middle, it goes back for the penalty and this time, Parra strokes it over....just inside the right hand post.
44 mins Ireland were under massive pressure in the last scrum and this one is no different, but ref Pearson makes no decision as it collapses and Murray gets it away. Sexton takes the chance to clear with a kick after D'Arcy set it up and finds touch. France have a lineout 15m outside the Irish 22.
42 mins Ireland lose the lineout to an overthrow, and then the ref judges that O’Connell has flicked it forward. Scrum France on the Irish 22m line, and it falls apart just as Harinordoquy flips it out to Parra. No penalty against, but France are on the attack but Rougerie and Poitrenaud misread eachother and the ball goes to the deck 10m from the Irish line. Knock on, Ireland scrum. Poitrenaud needs treatment.
HUGE scrum here.
40 mins Trinh-Duc is still the French number 10 - and he kicks off long into the Irish 22. Sean O'Brien catches and sets it up and Murray kicks long to Harinordoquy. He sets it, and Fofana then has a run in midfield but the next attack sees Clerc shoved to touch by Andrew Trimble. Ireland lineout on their 22m line.
1556 Colm Kennedy (Facebook): Don't remember us ever leading at half time in Paris
Greta Kelly (Facebook): "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEees!"
Panel view: Conor O'Shea reckons Ireland's increased linespeed and better breakdown work has been vitally important while Brent Pope reckons France will not be able to adjust their gameplan to cope.
David J McKenna (via e-mail): "Brilliant stuff! Did not expect this scoreline at half time! Watching from PJ O'Brien's in downtown Toronto!"
HALF-TIME: FRANCE 6-17 IRELAND
40 mins And there is just time Ireland to set the ball up for Murray to kick off the pitch: half-time, and it is Ireland who are landing the sucker punches.
38 mins TRY IRELAND! Sexton hangs the ball up high and O'Connell taps it back but an Irish hand knocks it on - scrum France on the Irish 10m line over by the touchline.
They try a backline move but the ball hits the deck. The French forwards carry a few, bidding to build momentum, but Ireland are holding firm, Ferris again at the heart of the effort.
Slowly, they make a few yards, but O'Brien wins it on the deck to end the danger and from there, Ireland launch and absolutely brilliant counter which Bowe scores from! The ball is quickly moved to the far touchline, a lovely handoff is followed by a kick and chase and Bowe kept a cool head, picked up the ball and gets the try!
Incredible stuff, and as the rain gets heavier Sexton gets the conversion - glancing the upright with a fairly bad strike, but it is good for two more.
34 mins A good scrum is won by Ireland and Murray kicks for the corner, where Poitrenaud collects and returns a long punt. Ireland send another back in France's direction and from a ruck, Sean O'Brien is penalsied. Trinh-Duc taps it and goes quickly and France are quickly on the attack in the Irish half, as Bowe just misses out with yet another intercept effort.
As France moved it back across the line, Cian Healy gets in the way as he came back from getting treatment and a penalty is given to them - Ireland can be thankful it is no more than that. But Parra has missed the penalty - what a surprise, he is normally very reliable.
32 mins And the ball is lost at two in the lineout, O'Connell getting beaten by Maestri in the air. France collect the ball on the deck, but Ireland work hard in defence, after Best caught Parra, Ferris orchestrates a second 'choke' turnover in midfield. Scrum Ireland just inside their own half: need a good one.
31 mins The re-start is put up to contest but Maestri gets it and Trinh-Duc kicks a beauty to touch on the Irish 22. The ball teased Trimble as it bounced past him and ran over the line.
29 mins PENALTY FRANCE Bowe almost grabs a second intercept that would have been another try, but he just misses out on picking off Parra's pass at the back of the lineout after Harinordoquy's catch and feed to him. But he knocked it on and France power through this scrum and win a penalty after it splits apart. Parra kicks the penalty - is just creeps over and hits Tommy Bowe in the head - to close the gap to four.
Ireland's defensive linespeed is superb, but their scrum is becoming a serious issue.
27 mins Mike Ross has been getting treatment for a cut under his eye. As that is happening, Ireland clear the kick-off to touch through Murray. Lineout just inside the Irish half.
26 mins PENALTY IRELAND Ireland win the lineout but they can't breach the French defensive line and O'Callaghan almost gives up the ball when it is knocked out in a big collision with Bonnaire. But O'Connell grabs it, and Ireland get a penalty for offside soon after. Sexton has a shot from dead in front on the French 22, and he knocks it over.
24 mins France catch the kick-off but France scrum-half Parra kicks it straight to touch after it was carried back in to the 22: lineout for Ireland just inside their 22, a position Ireland have improved greatly in.
21 mins PENALTY FRANCE The boots haven't worked for Healy, and Ireland's scrum is shoved back, and a free is given against Murray for refusing to put the ball in. From that, France choose to scrum and there is another big contest before they move it to Rougerie on a crash ball.
Ireland lose a little ground over the next phases but Best then puts in a smashing tackle. But Trinh-Duc gets them going again, releasing Harinordoquy with a superb offload and they are in the Irish 22 and on the front foot.
The crowd roars as waves of French attackers charge at the Irish line and eventually, a penalty against D'Arcy for killing the ball is given 5m from the Irish line. Scary stuff from the French.....
Parra knocks the kick over.
18 mins What was that I said about France looking fired up? France try a maul but Ireland have huge energy and intensity in defence and break it apart, and then they win the ball with a great counter-ruck.
A slight delay as Cian Healy changes his boots, and ref Pearson talks to O'Callaghan and Dusautoir after linesman Wayne Barnes points something minor out.
18 mins The scrum is contested well by both before Trinh-Duc kicks against the grain to Bowe's wing. He has read it though and Ireland return a high kick of their own. Keanrey smashesT Trinh-Duc as he catches it, and Ireland pile into the ruck but give away a penalty, which is kicked to touch.
Lineout France on the Irish 10m line.
16 mins Ireland try to give Murray a run from the back of the lineout but he is caught and as they try to build momentum, O'Connell knocks it forward. Scrum France on their own 10m line.
15 mins The re-start is claimed by Malzieu but he is turned over on the deck, and Szarzewski runs in and picks it up from the back of the Irish ruck. Penalty Ireland, which Kearney kicks up into the French half.
14 mins TRY! Tommy Bowe picks up an intercept as France moved the ball across the backline - far too slowly. Bowe spotted Rougerie's intent to pass to Poitrenaud and simply put himself in the way of it before trotting in under the sticks, from where Sexton converted!
12 mins France look to be on the front foot deep inside the Irish 22 after winning the lineout, but the ball is moved wide to Vincent Clerc and he turns back to try and run back around the Irish defence and gives up 10m. With the momentum gone, Trinh-Duc puts up a high ball which Kearney catches superbly and marks. His free kick is excelletn as well: to touch on the French 10m line. Great play by Ireland's full-back.
10 mins Good scrum by Ireland, and they turn it over but a holding on call instantly goes against Heaslip and Trinh-Duc stuffs the penalty into the Irish 22. Great kick, Ireland set for their first real test after spurning early chances themselves.
9 mins And Sexton has missed it, it was a tough enough kick from dead in front, 40m out and into the wind but he yanked it to the left.
France took the 22 dropout quickly and looked to be on a counter but were called back. Harinordoquy does take a quick one to himself then and they set that up and kick long to Sexton. Ireland counter, Sexton passing to Kearney, but this time Kearney is wrapped up and a scrum is given to them.
6 mins The first scrum goes down, as a small bit of rain falls in Paris. The next one sees Ireland move the ball to Kearney and then begin to probe the blindside before Sexton puts up a big bomb which Poitrenaud takes brilliantly. France now go on the attack to roars from their fans.
The ball is moved to Szarzewski who is smashed by Ferris and then Rory Best steps in to win a penalty call in Ireland's favour.....
Good start, and Ireland could be rewarded with three points.
4 mins Titanic contest in there, and Harinordoquy picks up as the scrum falls apart. The ball is moved to Rougerie, but Ireland manage a very good choke tackle - Sexton and Ferris wrapping him up - and Ireland will have a scrum on their own 10m line.
2 mins And exchange of kicks ends with Ireland getting the ball on half-way before lofting a high kick that Kearney chases but can't get. Trinh Duc then puts up a bomb for France, which Bowe claims on the French 10m line.
Best gets involved twice before Murray has a dart but is caught and after a bit of back and forth with no headway across the backline - Ireland going wide - Earls kicks through. It's a good chip, but Clement Poitrenaud gathers it and beats a few men and France then attack down the right, where a tackle ends with a French scrum being called inside the Irish half.
France v Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations, Stade de France, Sunday 4 March, kick-off 3pm:
France: 15 C Poitrenaud 14 V Clerc 13 A Rougerie 12 W Fofana 11 J Malzieu 10 F Trinh-Duc 9 M Parra 1 J-B Poux 2 D Szarzewski 3 N Mas 4 P Pape 5 Y Maestri 6 T Dusautoir (captain) 7 Julien Bonnaire 8 I Harinordoquy
Replacements: 16 W Servat 17 V Debaty 18 L Nallet 19 L Picamoles 20 J Dupuy 21 L Beauxis 22 M Mermoz
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best, 3 Mike Ross, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 6 Stephen Ferris, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Fergus McFadden
1500 Jonny Sexton will kick-off in seconds.
1458 The anthems are over. Ireland's was rattled through at a fair lick before a rousing La Marseillaise. The stadium is close enough to full and if it counts for anything, the French, especially Harinordoquy, look more fired up and energetic.
1453 The panel make their calls:
George Hook: "Everything points to a French victory"
Brent Pope: Sticks his neck out and goes for Ireland.
Conor O’Shea: "French win"
Tony Ward is on co-comm duty with Ryle Nugent and thinks Ireland should follow the Munster template: basically, just stay in the game.
The stadium is close to full, there has been light rain which could make for a greasy ball, and the teams are on their way out onto the pitch.
1445 Linda Molloy (Facebook): "Predictions... hmmm. Georgie to upset everyone, Conor to be balanced and unbiased, Popey to look good as always and McGurk, well he will be interrupting everyone."
1440 Ireland head coach Declan Kidney speaks to RTÉ's Clare McNamara, who is pitchside.
He says the onus is on the team to give Ireland fans something to be proud of. On the gampelan side, he emphasises the need to make right decisions and achieve the right level of physicality. "We have been guilty of believing we have to do something special", he adds.
Reading the tea-leaves, it sounds like Ireland are set to base their gameplan on "winning collisions": in other words, no major change from the last few matches.
1435 A flavour of the panel's view:
Brent Pope is in bullish form: on France, he says that "they're not great really" but Ireland need to believe they can win.
Conor O'Shea reckons the French fitness at club level is inferior to the Irish players, and that Ireland need to test them by setting a high tempo from the off. "Don't die a slow death" by getting sucked into a slow, set-piece oriented game.
George Hook reckons that only three or four of the Irish team would make the French team, and that Ireland do not have a plan to move the ball around. Ireland are not capable of playing to that kind of plan....
1432 Weather presenter Jean Byrne has led off the RTÉ coverage on TV with a high-concept rugby/weather mash-up....
1429 Eoghan MacSweeny (via e-mail): "The butterflies are starting already! I have a good feeling about this one though. It'll be tight I think and another titanic defensive effort a la Ozzie game in World Cup and we'll do it; our attack has been improving the last two games... COME ON IRELAND!!!"
1425 Regular RTÉ Radio and TV contributor Bernard Jackman sent an interesting story the way of #rterugby this morning: Tomás O'Leary's move to Perpignan may be off with the French club deciding he is too expensive.
There were suggestions during the week that Tony McGahan's decision to head for Australia could also see O'Leary reconsidering the matter on the basis that a new coach may see the scrum-half pecking order differently.
We're live on RTÉ 2 in a couple of minutes....
1420 The Irish back-row has been the subject of much discussion in the lead up to this one. The Against The Head panel had some bona fide experts talking it over on Monday with Bernard Jackman, Alan Quinlan and Victor Costello taking a look (Youtube link).
The back-row is also the subject of the most elaborate twitter hashtag we've seen today: "#seanobrien=amonsterinparis" (@phillycrowley, who reckons we will see a 32-27 Ireland win).
1415 @MorninCornflake is in poetic mood on twitter: "@RTERugby Paris in the springtime, romance in the graveyard? Kidney to seduce the French into defeat. ALLEZ LES VERTS! #irefra #LeCrunch"
1410 The Irish Women got a win on the board in their re-arranged fixture against Wales yesterday, scoring a 36-0 victory at Ashbourne RFC.
1405 Brian Mac Call (via e-mail): "Way down here (in Switzerland) the match can be VIEWED on the second canal of French TV (France 2) - on TV or on internet. Maybe some people don't know. We'll be shouting in French and in Irish. My guess is Ireland 23 : France 9."
I think "canal" is French for channel folks....thanks Brian, enjoy the match.
1400 I think the pre-amble to this one feels slightly different to the aborted match a few weeks ago. France weren't great against Scotland, Ireland looked good against Italy and Sunday afternoon should be a bit calmer than Saturday night might have been.
Kevin Kelehan (RTÉ Rugby Facebook): No upset but no massacre. France by 10 with 7 in the last 10 mins.
Declan C. McKinney (RTÉ Rugby Facebook): France 28, Ireland 14 with all the French points coming in the first 20-25 minutes.
1340 Welcome to the France v Ireland live match-tracker - the temperature is a balmy 11 degrees in Paris, and barring another bizarre turn of events we will have some rugby this afternoon.
Kick-off is 3pm and George Hook, Brent Pope and Conor O'Shea will be in studio from 2.30pm on RTÉ 2 (you can also watch online). Ryle Nugent and Tony Ward on commentary duty in Paris. On Radio, there will be plenty of chat and analysis before the match while Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan are the live commentary team on RTÉ Radio 1.