Replacements used: Vincent Martin (RC Toulon) for Domvo (half-time), Pascal Cotet (USA Perpignan) for Fresia (50 mins), Jean-Charles Fidinde (AS Clermont Auvergne) for Carbou (51), Fabrice Catala (USA Perpignan) for Otazo (59), Eric Escande (Montpellier HRC) for Ecochard (68)., Andrew Chauveau (USB-CABBG) for Kazubek, Johan Aliouat (Montpellier HRC) for Jedresiak (both 71).
Replacements used: Foster Horan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Coghlan Murray (30 mins), Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Qualter (59), Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht) for McGrath, Jordan Coghlan (UCD/Leinster) for Conneely (both 68), James Rael (Garryowen/Munster) for Reilly, Des Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster) for Scannell, Cathal Marsh (Dublin University/Leinster) for Jackson (all 71). Not used: Diarmuid Higgins (Buccaneers/Connacht).
Out-half Clément Otazo had put France 6-3 ahead at the break, with captain Paddy Jackson kicking Ireland's points.
A terrific individual try from Foster Horan, early in the second half, was followed by two more Otazo kicks, but JJ Hanrahan's 73rd-minute penalty decided this closely-fought encounter.
A draw was Ireland’s previous best result away to France at this age grade, and for their level of commitment and tactical awareness Ruddock’s side got their just reward in front of a 10,000-strong crowd.
France, whose first fixture against Italy fell victim to the weather, got off to a bright start at the Stade des Alpes. Their skipper Tom Ecochard took a quick tap and the forwards rumbled on before Otazo landed a third minute penalty.
A ruck offence from Iain Henderson allowed Otazo slot over a second penalty, six minutes later, as Ireland were kept on the defensive early on.
The scrum was a positive element from Ireland’s 11-6 victory over Wales and a solid set piece created Jackson’s first scoring chance. However, he pulled the 12th minute kick across the posts.
With snow beginning to fall, the Irish outfit enjoyed a concerted spell in the French half with forwards Jack Conan, Henderson and Conor Gilsenan carrying well.
Chris Farrell, one of three changes from the Welsh game, was strong in defence and then took a crash ball which led to Jackson landing a settling long range penalty in the 20th minute.
Jackson had the accuracy but not the distance with a difficult shot from the left, but there were signs that Ireland were beginning to hit their stride.
A superb thrusting run from Farrell opened up the home defence on the restart, with the supporting Gilsenan bringing play up to five metres from the try-line.
Niall Scannell unfortunately lacked support at a subsequent ruck and France won a relieving penalty. Intelligent probing from Hanrahan and Luke McGrath pinned the French back in their half nonetheless.
Some miscommunication between Hanrahan and Jackson led to Jonathan Danty taking the hosts back into scoring range, yet Otazo slid a penalty away to the left and wide.
The remainder of the first half was evenly contested, with McGrath just lacking the necessary support as he sniped up towards the French 22 in injury-time.
When play resumed, a clever kick over the top set Farrell up for an angled run through midfield, Hanrahan was up in support but his attempted pass to Shane Layden was ruled forward.
Just moments later Ireland succeeded in getting over the line. France cleared the ball out of their 22, replacement winger Horan fielded it near the left touchline and darted back towards midfield where he wriggled away from two defenders and broke free of Bastien Chalureau’s tackle to raid in under the posts.
Jackson tapped over the conversion before France responded in strong fashion. Otazo landed two penalties approaching the hour mark, the second opportunity coming from an increasingly powerful home scrum.
It looked ominous for Ireland when they lost flanker Aaron Conneely to the sin-bin for a stray hand at a ruck, but the visitors kept their composure and soaked up the pressure.
Hanrahan was unfortunate to lose control of the ball after intercepting a long pass near halfway. It was suddenly all France though, with Kyle McCall and Scannell needing to put in vital tackles as the home side pressed just metres out.
Ireland gleaned confidence from their fortitude in defence and forced France in a number of errors in contact, scrapping for every ball and every inch of territory.
With Conor Finn moved in to number 8 while Conneely was off, Ireland knuckled down at scrum time and had a let-off when centre Ilian Perraux missed a penalty from the left.
A well-orchestrated kick chase helped Ireland win back a chunk of territory and when Yohann Artru was penalised for preventing the opportunity to take a quick lineout, Hanrahan stepped up to drill over the right-sided kick.
Backed by a vocal home support, France were fired up for a final onslaught and they had Ireland on the back foot in a thrilling climax.
With the replacements helping to maintain a high tackle rate, the Irish showed tremendous composure to deny Chateau his moment of glory and then defend a final five-metre scrum in the dying seconds.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)