15. Brice Dulin: 7
Didn’t even have to break stride from Yoann Huget’s high-flying tap-back when he scored France’s opening try and looked more slippery running from deep than he has for much of the Six Nations so far. He’s generally better at try-saving tackles than Saturday’s evidence suggests, though.
14. Yoann Huget: 7.5
One of a very short list of French players who, on the evidence of this tournament, would make a fantasy wishlist of other national teams’ coaches. Another very effective night’s work from the Toulouse flier.
13. Mathieu Bastareaud: 8.5
He’s been largely anonymous for much of the Six Nations, but Toulon’s blunt instrument saved his best game for last – when he was opposite the arguably greatest centre world rugby has ever seen. He bludgeoned his way through midfield time and again, but followed two of his breaks with wild forward passes. His only errors in an otherwise good performance.
12. Gael Fickou: 7.5
Finally got his chance at centre following Maxime Mermoz’s dismal display in Edinburgh last week. Didn’t disappoint, either, and always looked dangerous with ball in hand. Surely did well enough to be given another go at number 12.
11. Maxime Medard: 4.5
A leading international rugby player with such interesting facial hair probably should be applauded for managing to largely disappear for 80 minutes. He popped up once, to win France a penalty after Huget had done the hard work, but otherwise was so anonymous, Philippe Saint-André completely forgot to replace him.
10. Remi Tales: 7
The Castres fly-half isn’t everyone’s first choice at 10 for France, but his bewitchingly inch-perfect crossfield kick found Yoann Huget, who tapped back for Brice Dulin to score the try that ensured France went into the break a point to the good, but missed a relatively simple drop goal attempt in the second half that would have made things really interesting.
9. Maxime Machenaud: 7.5
Machenaud and Tales formed France’s third half-back pairing of the tournament – which signals better than anything the problems Les Bleus are having in this area without Morgan Parra. They did better than either Doussain-Plisson or Machenaud-Plisson, which isn’t saying much. No doubt, despite Machenaud’s impressive performance with the boot (chances are he would have nailed the late penalty that Jean-Marc Doussain criminally missed), coach Philippe Saint-Andre can’t wait to recall the Clermont scrum-half.
1. Thomas Domingo: 5
Referee Steve Walsh decided fairly early on that the Clermont prop was the weakest link in the French scrum that generally struggled to cope with Irish forward power. Unlike Anne Robinson, Walsh only awarded penalties. But it was enough in the opening minutes to convince the men in green that this could be their night. It was not until he was replaced by Vincent Debaty that France enjoyed some parity.
2. Dimitri Szarzewski: 6.5
Dived over for a controversial second-half try that really set Irish nerves jangling, which replays suggested shouldn’t have been awarded, but played well enough to suggest doubt Benjamin Kayser will have his work cut out getting the number two jersey back.
3. Nicolas Mas: 5
Struggled in the face of some utterly ferocious scrummaging from Cian Healy all evening, until he injured his elbow falling awkwardly in a tackle. Will be out for some weeks, but was this the unintended and ignominious farewell of an old rugby dog who can’t quite get to grips with the new scrummaging tricks?
4. Pascal Pape: 6.5
Has a captain, since Martin Johnson, looked quite as world weary as the Stade Francais lock? Pape was handed the captaincy after injury ruled Thierry Dusautoir out of the Six Nations. It has clearly been a heavy burden, leading this French side. How, he must have been thinking, different the tournament could have been if France had played like this more often.
5. Yoann Maestri: 5
Maestri is a bit like the Richard Hill of the French side. You don’t notice him at the time. It’s only when you look back that you notice the little, dark things he does that make all the difference. At least, that’s how it was with Hill. With Maestri, you really just don’t notice him.
6. Louis Picamoles: 6
Guilty of France’s slapstick moment of the match, when he made a hash of passing the ball after catching a Conor Murray clearance. It was an error that led to Ireland’s second try – but otherwise put in another solid shift this time playing out of position on the blindside. Blew a gaping hole in the Irish defence with a bullocking charge early in the second half – but the French attack faltered soon after.
7. Alexandre Lapandry: 6
The openside will return to Clermont unable to play for a few weeks thanks to a “problem” with his collarbone. Doesn’t sound good. And it maybe also explains why he really didn’t make that much impact.
8. Damien Chouly: 7
Thought, for a moment, he’d scored the try 90 seconds from time that would have broken Irish hearts. But, when it really mattered, Steve Walsh decided to check with the video referee – and found that the final pass was forward.
By James Harrington (@blackmountained)