Ireland trailed 11-3 at half-time but an Anthony Foley try created and converted by Ronan O'Gara put Ireland right back into contention before Pascal Pape and Yannick Jauzion struck in quick succession to push the French into a comfortable lead.
To their credit Ireland clawed their way back and there was a try for Tyrone Howe but the French replied with a try under the posts from Jean-Baptiste Elissalde with Michalack tapping over the conversion.
Ireland took an early lead with a penalty from O'Gara (5th min) and although they enjoyed territorial dominance they were unable to capitalise. France equalised with a Michalack penalty after 27 minutes and went in front five minutes later when Vincent Clerc finished off a period of French pressure with a try in the right hand corner. Michalack was again on the mark in the 32nd minute with a well struck penalty to leave the home side in front by eight points (11-3) at the break.
France: Nicolas Brusque (Biarritz); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), YannickJauzion (Toulouse), Damien Traille (Pau), Christophe Dominici (StadeFrancais); Frederic Michalak (Toulouse), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse);Imanol Harinordoquy (Pau), Olivier Magne (Montferrand), Serge Betsen(Biarritz), Pascal Pape (Bourgoin), Fabien Pelous (Toulouse, capt, Pieter DeVilliers (Stade Francais), William Servat (Toulouse), Sylvain Marconnet (StadeFrancais) Replacements: Yannick Bru (Toulouse), Jean-Jacques Crenca (Agen),David Auradou (Stade Francais), Thomas Lievremont (Biarritz), DimitriYachvili
Ireland: Girvan Dempsey (Leinster); Shane Horgan (Leinster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Kevin Maggs (Bath/ENG), Tyrone Howe (Ulster); RonanO'Gara (Munster), Peter Stringer (Munster); Anthony Foley (Munster), KeithGleeson (Leinster), Simon Easterby (Llanelli/WAL); Paul O'Connell (Munster,capt), Malcolm O'Kelly (Leinster); John Hayes (Munster), Shane Byrne(Leinster), Reggie Corrigan (Leinster) Replacements: Frank Sheahan (Munster), Simon Best (Ulster),Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster) Victor Costello (Leinster), Guy Easterby (Rotherham/ENG), David Humphreys (Ulster), Anthony Horgan (Munster)
Referee: Chris White (ENG)