Ireland has won Pool D at the Rugby World Cup after a tough 24-9 win against France at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday. The victory means the Irish will meet Argentina in the quarter-finals while the French will face New Zealand; a prospect they may not be altogether unhappy about. It was a full-blooded start to the game with big kicks and hits featured at first with the Shamrocks probably just shading these exchanges.
The first half was all about the kicks. Frederic Michalak missed a penalty in the fifth minute before hitting the upright four minutes later. After 12 minutes Jonathan Sexton made no mistake to hand Joe Schmidt’s side the lead. Michalak was replaced by Scott Spedding as Les Bleus’ place kicker of choice and it paid dividends as the scores were level three minutes later.
The two would trade kicks again in the following seven minutes but on 24 minutes Sexton was the victim of a huge hit and in a blow for the Shamrocks, he was replaced by Ian Madigan. The new man took to the Cardiff cauldron like a duck to water and slotted a 28th minute penalty to restore Ireland’s lead. Schmidt’s charges were up 9-6 at the interval.
Nine minutes after the restart the Irish were over the line. After a ruck on the opposition try line the ball was brought back to Rob Kearney who crossed the line although Madigan missed the conversion. Morgan Parra landed a 64th minute penalty to bring Philippe Saint-Andre’s side back into contention at 14-9. However with Les Tricolores appearing to run out of steam, the green jerseys took advantage and with nine minutes left on the clock Conor Murray was over after what felt like an infinite amount of phases.
Madigan made no mistake on this occasion nor did he err five minutes later with a three-pointer as the 6 Nations champions knocked the stuffing out of continental Europeans, who must now contemplate a quarter-final against the All Blacks. However France will know that in 2007 they eliminated the Kiwis in the quarter-final stage and did the same in the 1999 semi-finals.