Five points for Ireland will scare the pissed off French

THERE IS a weather phenomenon that occurs every year in France that turns the sky in these regions a dark orange hue for a few days in March. The weather service calls him the sirocco and it is caused by particles of sand from the Sahara desert being blown by the wind and blown over the country.

It was particularly visible over western France on Wednesday, notably Bordeaux and here in La Rochelle, before moving north yesterday. The chances of him dropping his hazy film on the Stade de France on Saturday night seem slim, but that hasn’t appeased the seafaring gaze and anxiety that lingers over the capital ahead of Le Crunch and the final weekend of the Champions League. Six Nations.

Five points for Ireland against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium will help shake up the French further.

There was enough about England’s performance at 14 last Saturday at Twickenham to remind Fabien Galthie and his players that anything they win on Saturday night, from the first maul to a potential Grand Slam, will be fiercely contested. .

The biggest obstacle to Ireland’s league prospects is England’s feeling of naivety from the back line. There are too many inexperienced and unproven players to trouble France – not in the broader sense of building towards 2023, but for now – Paris on Saturday night. Eddie Jones is primarily focused on building a squad for the World Cup. There were clear indications last Saturday that at present Ireland’s priority is this championship.

England turned things around in the bottom three by appointing Freddie Steward on the wing and George Furbank at full back for the tournament highlight. If England were to start Randall or Youngs alongside Marcus Smith and complete that with Farrell and Tuilagi in the centre, Elliot Daly at the back, Anthony Watson and Michael Lynagh’s young boy Louis on the wings, then you have a very different kind of backline to give France a real boost.

In these columns we have alluded to the under-recognized value of the home game in Test rugby. He will give France a head start on Saturday night, but perhaps not as much as he did for England’s fourteen men against Ireland. If this circumstance had occurred at the Aviva stadium, put your hat on Ireland winning by fifty points. And I don’t say that casually.

With the crowd inspiring England, and vice versa, the players defended at an optimum level. With the ball, England drove it, tossed it in the air, chased and tackled. It was as rudimentary as possible, bordering on prehistoric rugby. What cannot be lost is the level at which Ireland have helped England by playing too loosely. By not controlling the ball, by not being wiser in their management of the game, Ireland, with persistence and frustration, continued to descend into the foxhole and drag England to the top.


People said Ireland was too ambitious. I would rather say that Ireland were way too inaccurate with the ball, always looking for the extra phase that wasn’t there, and kicking the ball with the resulting scrum issues. Then penalty to England, drive up the pitch 50m, drive a maul, slow it down, kick it and keep the crowd involved.

This is not nuclear physics. When I was still reading rugby comics, the first lesson I learned was that if you have a kick off against New Zealand, check where Jonah Lomu is and kick the other side.

As soon as Ireland felt they were in trouble with the referee at the scrum, they demanded that they change their tactics to some extent. Hit the ball, turn England at fourteen and smother them. Don’t give them anything to hold on to.

It occurred to me that Ireland were persisting in the offload game with a bigger vision at stake, that they were hot stuff for next year and they were suffering the consequences on the day . Unfortunately, that didn’t add up when it came to halftime minutes. That Johnny Sexton played 79 minutes is fantastic for him and his confidence to see a full game, but it wasn’t great for Ireland in the medium to long term. Joey Carbery played for 40 seconds and never touched the ball. The camera turned to him behind Ireland’s final line-up, and he looked like a lost soul.

With the Championship still alive, there is no doubt that Ireland will select Sexton for Saturday. From the outside, it looks like it will be Jonny until it breaks down. Two things to take from that: Ireland are better with him on the pitch and for a long time last Saturday when the game was on the line, Andy Farrell wasn’t happy to take Jonny out. There are a number of ways to interpret this streak, but it’s a safe conclusion that Carbery has yet to earn the full trust of management. Wherever Jones and England are with their periodization, Ireland is operating here and now for another weekend.

Then the debate shifts to New Zealand this summer, where Carbery is due to play at least two of the test matches.

Half-time dynamics were Ireland in microcosm last Saturday – everyone was a bit distracted by a frenetic 80 minutes at Twickenham and didn’t quite adjust to what was happening in front of them.

Once the championship is over, we will all have a full picture to consider winners and losers. For Ireland, there have been a handful of positives, from Hugo Keenan’s fantastic form at 15, to the deepening of the table on the wing, bolstered by the form of Andrew Conway and James Lowe. Much of the Leinster man’s form is associated with confidence, a perfect example of Catt, O’Connell, Farrell and Easterby getting to know the person, knowing which buttons to press to get the most out of it. a talent. Lowe has always looked comfortable in the Leinster setup, now he looks comfortable with Ireland and it feels like he is adding to the group environment as well.

Conor Murray had his best impact in two years last Saturday, to remind some of what he can bring to any game. It is important for him that he finishes the championship with a positive impact again against Scotland tomorrow.

England, with their powerhouses, would be such a different proposition on Saturday night in Paris, but their performance against this France side is the most intriguing storyline of the past weekend. It would be nice to see Ireland sneak in and claim the Six Nations, but realistically, if the conditions are right, France could win with the bonus point.

The complication for me will be accessing a television screen at the Stade Mayol in Toulon, where La Rochelle is in the Top 14. In our small orbit, these are the most important eighty minutes of the season. We are looking to move up to third place with a win. But Toulon are fighting for their lives on the wrong side of the board.

Former Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal left and was replaced by Bernard Lemaître. Before anyone thinks the tap has been turned off – Boudjellal turned his attention to football and a French league fourth tier team – Toulon still have Cheslin Kolbe, Eben Etzebeth, Baptiste Serin, Facunda Isa, Charlies Ollivon and Sergio Parisse in their ranks – and they have signed Ihaia West, Danny Priso and Mathieu Tanguy from our club for next season.

With four more points, our position in the Top 14 would look solid. Without them, we’re looking over our shoulder at those who don’t make the top six, including Toulouse, who will soon reunite with their legion of French internationals.

It’s a cold wind for everyone.

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