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Croke Park - 11 February, 2007
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THE ACTION AS IT HAPPENED

By Mark Orlovac

"My brother is at Croke Park today but he's not answering his phone - maybe he can't hear it ringing because of all the Irish wailing. What a sickening end to a great game."
Fiona Brennan, via e-mail

"Even here in Phoenix, Arizona, I'm feeling gutted by that last-minute reversal."
Gary Acheson, via e-mail

"I was watching this in Hong Kong. All credit to both sides but I am delighted by the result."
Philip, via e-mail

Full time: Ireland 17-20 France

80 minutes: France hold on to the ball cleverly and begin a driving maul of their own. The ball is booted out and the final whistle is greeted by silence from the Dublin crowd. The French players leap in the air while Ireland's men just cannot believe it.

80 minutes: TRY Ireland 17-20 France
Oh no. Disaster for Ireland. The home side fail to collect the kick off, France pile forward and Vincent Clerc weaves his way though some poor tackling to break Ireland hearts. Beauxis converts. Surely there is no time left for Ireland to hit back.

78 mins: PENALTY Ireland 17-13 France
France take the legs from the maul and O'Gara shows nerves of steel to land the kick. Croke Park erupts, Ireland are so close now.

76 mins: Great stuff from the men in green as a rolling maul inches its way into French territory. The clock is ticking down and with every step Ireland take, the noise level increases.

74 mins: What a let off for Ireland as a Beauxis drop goal attempt comes back off the post. Ibanez and Clement Poitrenaud come off with Sebastien Bruno and Cedric Heymans taking their places.

69 mins: Trimble makes a fine break but slips at a crucial time. Ireland are handed a penalty advantage but Walsh's hand returns to his side, too early for some, and France can clear.

"Listening to it on the radio in Melbourne at 3:30am - hair on the back of my neck listening to the fields............. Come on lads."
Stephen Colman, via e-mail

64 mins: Ireland prop John Hayes has a massive cut on his ear which is spurting blood. Nothing serious enough to stop a front-rower though. The 'Fields of Athenry' rings around the stadium as Ulster's Neil Best enters the fray with Simon Easterby making way.

"Sitting in a class at Cornell University USA, with 26 Irish hotel managers reading text via WAP and passing score along the rows. Come on Ireland."
Kenneth Sharp

61 mins: There is a massive cheer as Munster hooker Jerry Flannery replaces Rory Best while wing Andrew Trimble comes on for Murphy.

60 mins: Another mistake ends a promising France attack. Murphy hacks on and there is a chance of something happening but the ball just limps out of play. Olivier Milloud comes on for prop Pieter De Villiers.

57 mins: PENALTY Ireland 14-13 France
Ireland take the lead for the first time as O'Gara slots over a kick. As the ball splits the posts, the noise could probably be heard in Paris. Harinordoquy is the man at fault as he comes into a ruck from the side. Meanwhile, Skrela departs and is replaced by Lionel Beauxis of Stade Francais.

55 mins: Skrela receives treatment to his ribs after an impressive tackle on Leamy. Ireland are having all the possession and surely the French defence will crack soon.

54 mins: Chabal makes way, this might be another injury for Sale to deal with. Bourgoin's Julien Bonnaire takes his place.

"I'm here in football-crazy Brazil and the only channel showing the match is TV5. Have to put up with French commentary but it's better than not seeing it. Very tight so far but I think we will swing it."
Kieran Gartlan, via e-mail

51 mins: The pace of this match is incredible and the noise is deafening. Biarritz lock Jerome Thion comes on for Pape.

49 mins: Great work from D'Arcy creates another attack but the Leinster man brings the move to an end by knocking on. Chabal looks in trouble with a knee injury but carries on.

46 mins: France get turnover ball and are marching their way deep into Irish territory only for Pascal Pape to drop the ball. Murphy picks up and is streaking down the pitch thinking he will score but Walsh has already blown his whistle. The boos are incredible.

45 mins: Roared on by a fervent support, Ireland look to be making inroads but play is brought back for a dubious knock on by Rory Best - did Chabal get a hand to it?

43 mins: Ireland begin the second half encouragingly. They keep the ball and go through the phases well and are helped by two penalties from Sebastien Chabal - the second coming for a high tackle on Horgan.

41 min: O'Gara gets the second half underway. Just to give you some idea of how dominant the visitors were in the opening period, France made 28 tackles to Ireland's 47.

And the answer to the earlier Lansdowne Road question: Jamie Heaslip for Leinster against Ulster on 31 December.

"Watching updates from El Bolson in Argentina, hair standing on end.... just wish I could see Croker! I can't get enough comments on the atmosphere, come on Ireland.
Ciara Keegan, via e-mail

"This is the second time in a row Ireland have failed to get started from the blocks. It appears to me they have to shake off Eddie O'Sullivan's game plan before they can get going.
Barry Gleeson, listening in Cuautla, Mexico. Via e-mail

"Listening via the internet from New York. The atmosphere and the game itself is incredible, how I wish I was there. This is the first time in a long time I've felt homesick.
Jason Styles, via e-mail

"Ireland's attitude is getting to me a little bit. We did not start at the right level. On the up side, I think we are fitter and the last 10 minutes will show for us. We have to be unbelievably aggressive in the second half."
Keith Wood, BBC Sport pundit


Half-time: Ireland 11-13 France


40 mins: Boss is pinged by Walsh for lying on the ball at the ruck. Skrela goes for goal but again he misses. The whistle goes to end a breathless half and France will be wondering how they are only two points ahead.

39 mins: A let off for Ireland as France display some wonderful passing skills to get to within five metres of the Ireland line. Geordan Murphy comes inside to block what would have been the try-scoring pass.

38 mins: Rory Best concedes a penalty for slowing the ball down at a ruck after Ibanez goes on the charge. Skrela cannot take advantage as he puts his kick wide.

32 mins: The euphoria dips suddenly as Denis Leamy drops the re-start, handing France the ball.

"I'm an 'adopted' Irish watching while on hols back home in Bogota, Colombia. How I wish I was in the pub in Dublin!
Liliana Morales, via e-mail

31 mins: TRY Ireland 11-13 France
Bedlam in Dublin as O'Gara overlaps on the wing after some great work from Horgan and David Wallace to touch down for his 11th Ireland try. His conversion goes wide.

29 mins: The pace and excitement is far greater at Croke Park than at Twickenham on Saturday. Ireland are getting a foothold in the game and France are suddenly making a few mistakes.

"Come on Ireland! I've stayed up till 12 to watch this in Osaka!"
Stephen Gilmer, via e-mail

24 mins: PENALTY Ireland 6-13 France
Ireland are getting back into the game. France concede a penalty for pulling a shirt in the line-out and after O'Gara goes for touch, Ireland get to within five metres of the French line. Christophe Dominici is penalised for offside and O'Gara this time goes for goal to reduce the deficit. Referee Steve Walsh has a little word with Ibanez to warn him about his side's recent indiscretions.

"We might need the hurling sticks after half-time if this continues..."
Jorden in Dublin, via e-mail

17 mins: Marcus Horan athletically keeps the ball in play and Ireland enjoy a bit of possession. Geordan Murphy's pass however is intercepted by an offside-looking Skrela.

"Just about to push back from JFK bound for Dubai....bad planning to miss such a historic game!"
Stephen Leonard, via-e-mail

14 mins: TRY Ireland 3-13 France
The French are flying now and Ireland cannot cope with their slick movement. The ball goes out to hooker Ibanez on the wing and the Wasps man darts inside Geordan Murphy's dreadful tackle to score. Skrela converts.

12 mins: PENALTY Ireland 3-6 France
France are looking ominous, getting quick ball and injecting pace with the ball out wide. But they go into a ruck off their feet and O'Gara, despite having the sun in his eyes, slots over the kick.

10 mins: The Croke Park crowd have something to cheer as Isaac Boss charges down a Skrela clearance. It comes to nothing though.

9 mins: PENALTY Ireland 0-6 France
Ireland are desperately defending deep in their own half and Rory Best is penalised for dragging scrum-half Pierre Mignoni into a ruck. Skrela slots over his second penalty.

6 mins: Oh dear, Ireland's set pieces are all over the show. Prop Pieter De Villiers puts the squeeze on at the scrum and the French attack again.

4 mins: Concerns for Ireland as Imanol Harinordoquy challenges well to steal the ball for France at a line-out.

3 mins: PENALTY Ireland 0-3 France
With the visitors on the front foot, lock Paul O'Connell is penalised for killing the ball and Skrela comfortably slots the ball over.

2 mins: Good start by France. David Marty finds a gap after Gordan D'Arcy slips but his centre partner Shane Horgan produces a fine tackle.

1504: David Skrela gets the game underway. Ireland gather the ball without fuss and Ronan O'Gara just makes touch with his first clearance.

PRE-MATCH BUILD UP, ALL TIMES GMT

1459: Stirring renditions of the anthems, with 'Amhrán na bhFiann' and 'Ireland's Call' taking the roof off the place. After all the talk and build-up, the action is just seconds away. Hold on to your hats.

"Spoke to Ireland Rugby Football Union president Peter Boyle who accompanied Ireland president Mary McAleese out to meet the players. He said he now knows what the Christians must have felt like when awaiting their turn to face the Lions in Rome's Coliseum. 'The noise just blasts the ears off you when you walk out into the stadium,' he said.
BBC Sport's Jim Stokes

"A mass of 200 Irish green packed into Scallywags in Toronto. Ireland to win by three to six points
Lin's O'Connor, via e-mail

1452: The noise is deafening as Ireland run out of the tunnel. A truly historic moment.

1451: France take to the field ready for the anthems. Everyone is now waiting for Ireland and the roar that is bound to greet them.

"Like a modern-day Napoleon, the compact frame of Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan leads his side off the park after the pre-match dance routines in front of Hill 16. In typical fashion without an overcoat to counter the cold biting wind, O'Sullivan purposely marches off to a cacophony of noise that echoes around the stadium which is the third largest in Europe."
BBC Sport's Jim Stokes

"Ulster lad in Germany nervously anticipating today's kick-off, think Ireland will edge it today by about four points. Sitting huddled in front of an absolutely tiny web-broadcast in my Ireland jersey with a four-province flag draped around me. Will be a big change in a fortnight when me and a mate will be at Croke for England's visit!
Shaun Bloomfield, via e-mail

"It is a massive blow for Ireland to lose Brian O'Driscoll. It puts a lot of weight on Paul O'Connell's shoulders while Ronan O'Gara has to also take responsibility. This game could make or break Ireland's year."
Jeremy Guscott, BBC Sport pundit

1441: Ireland's players are out on the pitch - watched by Brian O'Driscoll and Peter Stringer, and the ground is really filling up.

"A very large rainbow has descended on the north end of Croke Park, the only terraced compound at the ground where the Ireland team have just started to warming up..... an omen?"
BBC Sport's Jim Stokes

"I am struggling to keep my emotions in check. As a hurler first and foremost, it is an incredibly emotional day."
Keith Wood, BBC Sport pundit

1426: A line of very important looking black cars are seen winding their way through the Dublin streets on the way to the ground. I have to admit that I haven't got a clue who is in them.

1417: A little poser for you, no prizes or anything but just something to get you thinking. Who was the last scorer at the old Lansdowne Road before it closed for renovation?

1415: The French squad take to the pitch to start their pre-match warm-up.

"Compared to Lansdowne Road, the Croke Park pitch is like a prairie with the massed bands of the Garda and Army looking like a regimental herd of wilderbeast. The press area is high in the Hogan stand, very high. So high, in fact, it could give one a nose bleed.

The weather is crisp and dry, but rain is forecast to sweep in from the west. Having inspected the pitch, if you can't play rugby on this little piece of turf, you can't play rugby at all."
BBC Sport's Jim Stokes

1351: A few stats just to whet the appetite. Ireland, who are on a run of four straight wins, are looking for their first victory over France since 2003. France came close to losing against the Irish last year, leading 43-3 at one stage, Les Bleus managed to hold on to win 43-31.

Word from the cackling media centre is that the loss of Brian O'Driscoll and Peter Stringer swings the game back into France's favour.
BBC Sport's Jim Stokes at Croke Park

1330 GMT: The atmosphere is building in Dublin ahead of the historic clash between Ireland and France at Croke Park.

It is the first time a rugby union international has been played at the 82,000-seater home of the Gaelic Athletic Association and it is bound to be a hugely emotional encounter.

So how are you feeling ahead of the contest? Where are you watching it? What is the mood like at the stadium and what are your predictions for the game?

TEAMS

Ireland: Girvan Dempsey; Geordan Murphy, Gordan D'Arcy, Shane Horgan, Denis Hickie; Ronan O'Gara, Isaac Boss; Marcus Horan, Rory Best, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (capt), Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Simon Best, Mick O'Driscoll, Neil Best, Eoin Reddan, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble.

France: Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Yannick Jauzion, Christophe Dominici; David Skrela, Pierre Mignoni; Sylvain Marconnet, Raphael Ibanez (capt), Pieter De Villiers, Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Serge Betsen, Imanol Harinordoquy, Sebastien Chabal.
Replacements: Sebastien Bruno, Olivier Milloud, Jerome Thion, Julien Bonnaire, Dimitri Yachvili, Lionel Beauxis, Cedric Heymans.

Referee: Steve Walsh (NZ)




SEE ALSO
Ireland 17-20 France
11 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
O'Driscoll and Stringer ruled out
09 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
Laporte set for Croke Park effect
07 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
French make changes for Ireland
06 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
Wales 9-19 Ireland
04 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
Italy 3-39 France
03 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


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