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Six Nations | Group Stage
Feb 2, 2024 at 8pm UK
Penaud (40'), Gabrillagues (53')
Gibson-Park (16'), Beirne (30'), Nash (46'), Sheehan (62'), Kelleher (78')

Ireland kick off Six Nations with dominant France victory

Ireland kick off Six Nations with dominant France victory
© Reuters
Ireland kick off the 2024 Six Nations with a stellar 38-17 win over 14-man France at the Orange Velodrome.

Reigning Six Nations champions Ireland laid down an early marker with a 38-17 crushing of a 14-man France side at the Orange Velodrome in Friday's curtain-raiser.

Jamison Gibson-Park, Calvin Nash, Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Beirne registered a quintet of tries for Andy Farrell's fired-up outfit, who were handed a couple of scares from Damian Penaud and Paul Gabrillagues, but France were second best throughout and had salt rubbed into the wounds by virtue of Paul Willemse's first-half sending off.

A fast start from the Irish was rewarded when Jack Crowley kicked the first three points of the tournament in the eighth minute, a few moments before France lock Willemse was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder into the face of Andrew Porter.

Willemse's punishment would not be upgraded, but just after learning that their number five would soon be gracing the field again, France were powerless to thwart the charge of Gibson-Park, who produced a slick dummy to the right before dashing through in the 17th minute.

Ireland's opening try was fully merited before a 27th-minute Thomas Ramos penalty got France on the board, but just another three moments passed before Crowley lifted a delicate pass to the onrushing Beirne, who capitalised on Jonathan Danty feinting the other way to burst over the line unopposed.

Rather than keep their discipline when they needed it most, France went down to 14 in the 32nd minute, as Willemse inexplicably committed a carbon copy of his first high tackle on Porter - this time on Caelan Doris - and was ejected for two yellow cards.

Half time seemingly could not come quick enough for France, but Fabien Galthie's side suddenly found their stride in the dying embers, and after being denied by one brilliant Hugo Keenan tackle, Penaud gracefully dived over the line at the second bite of the cherry to reduce the arrears.

However, just as the Orange Velodrome found their voice, they were silenced once more just six minutes after the restart, as a two-on-two on the left saw Robbie Henshaw intelligently offload Doris on the ground, and the 25-year-old picked out full debutant Nash to complete the job.

Nevertheless, France refused to give up the ghost, and the Bleus hope was reignited in the 53rd minute, when Gabrillagues managed to force the ball over the line in a collapsed maul, which Peter O'Mahony was sin-binned for.

Lightning soon struck twice for the 14-man hosts, though, as Ireland produced an instant response to Gabrillagues's try in the 63rd minute from a well-worked maul, which Sheehan peeled away from to get over the line before another successful Crowley kick restored their 14-point cushion.

With just three minutes left on the board, another unstoppable Irish line-out and maul put the contest well and truly to bed, as Farrell's green shirts overwhelmed Galthie's tired troops, and Kelleher would be the one to prod the ball down.

Also collecting a bonus point on a near-perfect evening, Ireland's title defence continues against Italy in Dublin on February 11, one day after France travel to face Scotland in Edinburgh.

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