Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has suggested that despite a strong comeback by his side in their 19-12 loss to France, there is still plenty of room for improvement ahead of next weekend’s rematch.
Vincent Clerc’s try in Bordeaux helped France take a 13-3 lead at half-time and they managed to hold on to it in the face of a spirited Irish fightback.
Declan Kidney conceded that Ireland have been on the back foot for long periods in their two Rugby World Cup warm-up games so far – something he hopes to rectify in next Saturday’s return fixture at the Aviva Stadium.
“France played well and we didn’t play as well as I know that we’re capable of playing. So, when you put the two of those together you’re going to end up doing an awful lot of defence,” he said.
“Our defence has had a lot of practice over the last two weeks. Last week and in the first half this week we put our defence under pressure.
“We have to look at doing more of what we did in the second half (here). But one half doesn’t count – you need to do that for 80 minutes.”
Kidney gave credit to France for a dominant opening half hour but he also believes that Ireland contributed to their own downfall.
“I thought they obtained and retained possession very well and they stopped us from scoring a try. So the combination of those two – both in possession and in defence – was quite impressive.
“In the first half we did a bit of damage to ourselves because we probably didn’t hang on to the ball too well. Similar to last week, that’s what it was like. So that’s a bit that we’ll look at and work on getting right for next week.
“But they’ll come with a lot of fresh bodies again next week – a few lads who didn’t play tonight – and it’ll be a huge challenge for us again.”
Captain Leo Cullen said the squad had always expected a tough game in the south of France but that he was disappointed by the team’s slow start.
“We didn’t help ourselves by our poor retention. Whether that was set piece or even in phase, our retention was poor,” he admitted.
“They put us through phases and when you give them that much ball they’re always going to be dangerous. That’s probably the most disappointing thing from the start of the game.”
Aside from the usual bumps and bruises, Kidney said full-back Rob Kearney was the only injury concern.
Kearney was replaced by Felix Jones early in the second half after pulling up with a tight groin, but Kidney said he hoped it was not serious.