France scrape past Ireland

by staff

France edged Ireland 19-12 in a World Cup warm-up on Saturday, but both sides were left with plenty to ponder ahead of the showpiece event which starts in 28 days' time.

France scored the only try of the match through Vincent Clerc with Dimitri Yachvili and Ronan O'Gara kicking the remainder of their teams' points in a game where 14 replacements were made.

France dominated the first half on a sultry evening in Bordeaux as Ireland, showing nine changes from the team defeated 10-6 by Scotland last week, struggled to find any rhythm against a side who had spent the last two months in training.

Yachvili kicked the first points early in the game before full-back Damien Traille went wide with a drop goal attempt.

France deservedly grabbed the opening try in the 17th minute after a flowing, well-rehearsed crossfield move.

Impressive Toulon winger Alexis Palisson spread the ball to centre Maxime Mermoz whose sharp pass allowed Clerc, who underwent surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon just two weeks ago, to burst through and score.

It was the Toulouse winger's 25th international try.

Yachvili added the conversion before the scrum-half knocked over another penalty.

Ireland at least got on the board just before the interval when veteran fly-half O'Gara succeeded with a penalty after a rare foray into the French half to make the score 13-3.

The only worry for France at half-time was the sight of Mermoz, who was playing for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the Six Nations in February, limping off with a left knee injury.

Both sides made a host of changes after the break and throughout the second half from which Ireland benefitted the most with O'Gara capitalising on a series of errors by the French forwards.

He kicked three quick penalties to cut the score to 13-12 before Yachvili gave his side breathing space with two penalties in reply, the second of which was awarded for a blatant obstruction by Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald on Maxime Medard, who had the try-line in sight.

France and Ireland meet again in Dublin next Saturday in another warm-up ahead of the World Cup which starts in New Zealand on September 9.