It’s time for another trip down memory lane as we travel back in time to relive the classic Six Nations clash between France and Ireland in 2014.
In what was the 120th edition of the Championship, the destination of the title was still unknown going into the finale at the Stade de France in Paris.
But despite England piling on the pressure by beating Italy earlier in the day, Ireland held their nerve to beat Les Bleus by just two points to clinch the Six Nations crown on points difference and send off Brian O’Driscoll into retirement in style.
SETTING THE SCENE
Having got off to a perfect start with wins against Scotland and Wales, Joe Schmidt’s side tripped up against England in Round 3 as they lost by three points at Twickenham.
But they bounced back with a dominant 46-7 victory over Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to move them one step closer to winning their first Six Nations title since 2009.
And with England losing their opening game against France, Ireland travelled to Paris safe in the knowledge that the Championship would likely be all theirs if they got the win.
The task awaiting them was not a straightforward as it seemed on paper, though, with Ireland’s last victory in Paris coming back in 2000 when O’Driscoll scored a hat-trick of tries.
In one of the intriguing subplots, O’Driscoll was also set to make his final international appearance for his country having already earned 140 caps in the famous green jersey.
France, on the other hand, were going into the game with the slimmest of hopes of winning the title due to their vastly inferior points difference despite winning three of their first four matches.
Schmidt made just one change to the starting XV who defeated Italy the week beforehand, with the fit-again Peter O’Mahony replacing Iain Henderson in the back row.
The only other alteration to the visitors was in the replacements, where Ian Madigan replaced Paddy Jackson due his ability to cover fly-half, centre and full-back.
While Ireland were relatively settled going into the showdown, France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre decided to change things up with multiple changes from the side that edged out Scotland.
Jules Plisson was replaced by Remi Tales at fly-half and teenager Gael Fickou was given a start in the centres, with Brice Mach, Sebastien Vahaamahina and Maxime Mermoz all missing out.
Dimitri Szarzewski and Louis Picamoles were also brought into the side, with Saint-Andre revealing before the game that he had opted for Fickou due to his pace against O’Driscoll.
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
Maxime Machenaud kicked the first points of the game after Chris Henry was penalised for not releasing at the tackle, before Mathieu Bastareaud went close to scoring the opening try.
Another penalty allowed Machenaud to double the hosts’ lead, but Ireland responded through tries from Jonathan Sexton and Andrew Trimble as Ireland took to the front.
It did not last long, however, and France hit back with a try from full-back Brice Dulin as Machenaud’s conversion saw the home side lead 13-12 at the break.
Sexton found his way across the whitewash for a second time at the beginning of the second half and extended Ireland’s lead with the conversion and a penalty.
But France ramped up the pressure by cutting the gap to two points when Dimitri Szarzewski crashed over, setting up a dramatic finale in the cauldron of the Parisian ground.
And they had a chance to steal the win with a minute remaining as Damien Chouly appeared to score a last-minute try – only to see his effort chalked off for a forward pass.
The result ensured Ireland were crowned Six Nations champions by ten points, which was the difference between their haul and England’s, giving O’Driscoll the dream send-off.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It’s exactly as I would have wanted,” said O’Driscoll on his fairytale finish. “It feels great to be a two-time Six Nations winner. We have had so many second places down through the years.
“It’s great to finish on a high in my last game in this magnificent jersey.
“It’s a magnificent feeling. When it properly sinks in when we get home and I’m able to reflect upon it, I’m sure there will be a few tears.”
Ireland boss Schmidt said: “The fairytale continued right to the end for the magic man [O’Driscoll] and I’m just delighted for him.
“It’s unbearable, I’m not sure I can last too long doing this job. The heart just about gave up.
“We’ve shown incredible discipline right through the tournament and I think it was a credit to the players today that they maintained their discipline right to the finish.”
France coach Saint-Andre said: “Sometimes it’s better to win ugly than to have lost like this.
“Congratulations to Ireland, they played well but I think our young team did very well. If we had a little bit more of the control we should have won.”
France 20 Tries: Dulin, Szarzewski Cons: Machenaud 2 Pens: Machenaud 2
Ireland 22 Tries: Sexton 2, Trimble Cons: Sexton 2 Pen: Sexton
France: Dulin; Huget, Bastareaud, Fickou, Medard; Tales, Machenaud; Domingo, Szarzewski, Mas, Pape, Maestri, Picamoles, Lapandry, Chouly Replacements: Guirado, Debaty, Slimani, Flanquart, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Doussain, Mermoz
Ireland: R Kearney; Trimble, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, D Kearney; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, Toner, O’Connell, O’Mahony, Henry, Heaslip Replacements: Cronin, McGrath, Moore, Henderson, Murphy, Reddan, Madigan, McFadden
Attendance: 78,337 Referee: Steve Walsh