Ireland hand youngster Ryan first Six Nations start

Tricia Pearson
February 6, 2018

A last-minute drop goal from Johnny Sexton edged Ireland to a narrow victory at the Stade de France in their Six Nations opener.

France coach Jacques Brunel has named an experimental-looking side in his first match in charge since replacing Guy Noves, who was sacked after failing to win any of the four matches in the November test series.

Two young French half-backs, Matthieu Jalibert and replacement Antoine Dupont, both left the field with knee injuries that were classified as Head Injury Assessments.

Brian O'Driscoll has described as "disgraceful" the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) controversy which marred Ireland's dramatic Six Nations win over France.

The pending investigation will likely reveal if Dupont was assessed and what any results might have been but given that the obvious knee injury has been confirmed, it does cast France's use of the rule into question and whether it should have been permitted by officials. The world class half-back pairing of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray, with nearly 130 caps between them, have far more experience than their French counterparts, Maxime Machenaud, 31 caps, and 19-year-old Matthieu Jalibert who is making his debut.

"It's great that the Scarlets have made the quarterfinals of Europe, we've got players coming in with confidence and self-belief", Gatland said.

Owens himself appeared dubious by this point, checking repeatedly that it was for HIA.

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Reavie earned a spot in the final group with a four-under 67 that included birdies on his final two holes. "I'm trying to focus on right here, right now, more than focusing on the win", he said.

Referee Nigel Owens was at pains to clarify that Dupont was being removed because the independent match doctor was instructing that an HIA was needed.

If selected, Beauxis may take the kicking duties from scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who struck two penalties for France against Ireland. "It was only when I came off someone said England were only five points short of the crown going to Twickenham instead of Ireland".

"I don't feel that 12 months ago was over-confidence", Best said.

But Sexton redeemed himself in ideal fashion with the last gasp victor. "It's the sign of a real champion to step up and go again (after his penalty miss) and that's what he is".

"That is probably one of the big lessons for us from previous year: the autumn form".

There are three changes to the side that defeated Argentina in the final game of November Series, with Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw returning to the back-line and Josh van der Flier replacing the injured Sean O'Brien at openside flanker.

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