Perhaps the single most important period came in injury time of the first half when Ireland, leading 12-6, were very much under the cosh, as the French drove for their line. From a ruck under the posts, they spun a ball to Olivier Magne who came thundering for the try line but was met with a ferocious tackle from Brian O'Driscoll and Geordan Murphy that somehow stopped the flanker dead in his tracks.
And this was the pattern throughout the game as the French tried to get their famous continuity game going. They weren't helped by uncharacteristic errors or a tendency to take wrong options nor indeed by the superb Irish cover defence.
As was predicted before the game, the changes forced on manager Eddie O'Sullivan had no adverse affect on the Irish performnce.
Murphy was superb at full back, taking the high ball with Dempsey-like dependency while Marcus Horan saw off the challenge of Sylvain Marconnet who was replaced by Christian Califano in the 47th minute as coach Bernard Laporte sought to gain some advantage in the set piece - but to no avail.
Malcolm O'Kelly was immense, particularly out of touch, Keith Gleeson and Victor Costello got through acres of work and Humphreys re-paid his coachs' faith with a Man of the Match performance.
Ireland opened the scoring when Murphy picked up a loose ball in the opening minute and fired over a drop-goal to give the home side a three point advantage.France were quick to respond and play was soon being conducted close to the Irish line. A French rolling maul looked certain to yield a try but the Irish line was saved by a knock on.It was Malcolm O'Kelly who lifted the siege with a marvelous break out that ended - after Shane Byrne looked to have knocked-on - with a penalty to Ireland and a six point lead.
France opened their account when out-half Francois Gelez struck a superb penalty from the 10 metre line but spurned a chance to tie matters up when his 25 metre effort went left and wide at the start of the second quarter. Two more Humpreys penalties ended the half with the home side nine points clear.
That lead was reduced when Gelez tagged on two further scores by the 53rd minute and the French out-half really should have tied the match with a relatively easy kick in the final minutes. However that kick went narrowly wide of the left hand post to give the home side a deserved victory. Ireland. Geordan Murphy; John Kelly, Brian O'Driscoll capt, Kevin Maggs, Denis Hickie; David Humphreys, Peter Stringer; Anthony Foley, Keith Gleeson, Victor Costello, Malcolm O'Kelly, Gary Longwell, John Hayes, Shane Byrne, Marcus Horan.
France. Clement Poitrenaud; Aurelien Rougerie, Xavier Garbajosa, Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, Francois Gelez, Dimitri Yachvili, Imanol Harinordoquy, Olivier Magne, Serge Betsen, Olivier Brouzet, Fabien Pelous, capt Sylvain Marconnet Raphael Ibanez, Jean-Jacques Crenca.Replacements: Christian Califano for Marconnet,Sebastien Chabal for Betsen,
Referee: Andre Watson (S Africa).