From Ireland’s victory in 1909 to the deserved win by France last October in the final round of the delayed 2020 Six Nations, there have been 99 Test meetings between the countries spanning 112 years.
France have won 57 of those encounters and Ireland 35, and there have been seven draws in total, although the gap hasn’t been as big over the past 21 years, since Brian O’Driscoll’s fabled hat-trick earned a rare win on French soil.
In fact, the home win for Les Blues on October 30 last broke a run of three Irish wins – and was only the second French win in the last eight encounters.
Joe Schmidt clearly had their number, but this is a different France under Fabien Galthie after years in the tactical wilderness and they will look to prove it at the Aviva Stadium when the sides meet for the 100th time on Sunday.
Here is a look back at five of the more momentous meetings of the sides since the turn of the century.
France 25 Ireland 27
Six Nations, Paris, March 19 2000
Brian O’Driscoll’s fairytale leap onto the international stage. Ireland hadn’t won in the French capital since 1972 and yet another tough day looked on the cards when the hosts took a 6-0 lead. But the 21-year-old’s first try, in the 23rd minute, injected confidence into Warren Gatland’s side but his second, with 18 minutes remaining, only reduced France’s lead to five. The deficit remained with six minutes left when O’Driscoll pounced on the loose ball and took off to score. David Humphreys’ conversion left Ireland a point adrift, but John Hayes’ penalty win saw the Ulster out-half nail the winning kick from over 40m out.
France 43 Ireland 31
Six Nations, Paris, February 11 2006
Ireland scored four tries against France for the first time in 93 years but it is nowhere near enough in a surreal Stade de France encounter. Eddie O’Sullivan’s visitors found themselves an embarrassing 43-3 down before they got going, or the hosts fell asleep. By half-time, France were 29-3 to the good as tries by Rougerie, Magne, Marty and Heymans reflected their unstoppable attack, with the latter pair adding a second try apiece after the break. To their credit, Ireland did muster a decent response as O’Gara, D’Arcy, O’Callaghan and Trimble crossed the tryline, ultimately to no avail.
France 17 Ireland 17
Six Nations, Paris, February 11 /March 4 2012
Nobody present could believe it when, just minutes before kick-off, a Six Nations official announced the game was off due to a frozen and unplayable Stade de France pitch. “The boys were ready to go but sometimes you have to let your head rule your heart,” said Ireland head coach Declan Kidney. When the sides did get to face off, Ireland flew into a 17-6 lead at the break as Tommy Bowe gained some sort of revenge for six years earlier with a brace of tries. But the Wesley Fofana-inspired hosts clawed their way back for a share of the spoils between the sides for the first time since 1985.
France 20 Ireland 22
Six Nations, Paris, March 15 2014
The City of Light was the making of Brian O’Driscoll and it was fitting that he ended his Test career on a maximum high in the same city, swapping the Parc des Princes for the Stade de France for the joy of a championship-winning goodbye in a nerve-jangling encounter for the visitors. Ireland hadn’t won in Paris since that glorious March day in 2000 and they had to do it the hard way here. French replacement out-half Jean-Marc Doussain missed a handy penalty that would have put his side ahead with 10 minutes to go and, late on, Vincent Debaty’s final pass to Damien Chouly in acres of space on the wing went forward. But Ireland held on for a first title since the 2009 Grand Slam.
Ireland 24 France 9
World Cup, Cardiff, October 11 2015
Ireland had lost all three of their previous World Cup finals meetings with Les Bleus but there was no sense of inhibition about Joe Schmidt’s team with a place in the quarter-finals on the line and that confidence was backed up with a dominant performance, particularly in the first half. But it came at a massive cost – Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton all picked up injuries, while a punch on Pascal Papé by the outstanding Sean O’Brien saw him banned him from the next game against Argentina. Without the spine of their team, Ireland lost out at the last eight stage again.
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