Ireland keep Six Nations title hopes alive v France

Ireland keep Six Nations title hopes alive v France

Wales have won a national record 13 successive tests since losing to Ireland in February previous year in Dublin.

Although reclaiming the Six Nations title is not entirely in Ireland's hands, Joe Schmidt clearly believes his side have begun to distance themselves from the ominous worries that surrounded early games throughout this campaign.

Ireland was on attack from the kickoff, after Jordan Larmour, starting after fullback Rob Kearney injured his calf on Saturday, forced a lineout near the French tryline.

After misfiring in an opening loss to England and getting stuttering wins over Italy and Scotland, the defending champions completely overwhelmed the French with tries from Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan opening up a 19-0 halftime lead.

After controlling the opening 40 minutes, there was a disconcerting drop-off in Ireland's display in the second half until Earls' 56th-minute try, which sparked jubilant celebrations and could yet prove invaluable.

France thought they had provided a swift response, but Thomas Ramos knocked on before pulling a cross-field kick out of the air to score. They enjoyed an incredible 94 percent territory and 82 percent possession.

It would be no mean feat in the Six Nations, and games can be decided on small margins and decisions.

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Murray and Sexton have been struggling to impose themselves coming back from neck and knee injuries, but they directed the action superbly, and Schmidt credited that to the forwards' platform.

"We've never used this many players in a championship before".

"Also Joe got very emotional and said he would not leave without me going too", he added with both of them grinning.

France replacement prop Dorian Aldegheri was sin-binned for repeated scrum infringements, but with eight men against seven, Ireland's put-in wasn't hooked and the pushover attempt was thwarted.

The veteran forward has set his sights on helping Ireland reach the last four of the tournament for the first time. - Keith Earls is now level with Tommy Bowe as Ireland's joint-second highest try scorer in Test history, behind only Brian O'Driscoll (46); it was his first try versus France in his 10th game against them.

France somehow conjured up late converted tries to Yoann Huget and Camille Chat, ruining Ireland's golden chance to blank them for the first time since 1928.

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