Classic matches: Ireland v France through the years

There was a time in the mid-2000s where games between France and Ireland seem to play out classic encounters on an almost yearly basis.

There was a time in the mid-2000s where games between France and Ireland seem to play out classic encounters on an almost yearly basis.

The fact that those meetings sometimes decided the outcome of the Championship only added to the occasion.

As the two prepare to face off at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday in Round Four of the Guinness Six Nations, we have taken a look back at five of the most memorable clashes over the last two decades.

For years Ireland trips to Paris always followed the same pattern, with Les Bleus emerging triumphant. So dominant were they that Ireland failed to win at the Parc des Princes between 1974 and 1996 when it was the French national stadium.

In 2000, France had moved to the Stade de France, but Ireland had a rising star in their ranks.

Brian O’Driscoll had made his international debut the previous year but it was in 2000 that he announced himself to the world. A remarkable hat-trick stunned France and set Ireland on their way to a 27-25 win, their first in the French capital since 1972.

For BOD, it was the launching point for an incredible international career – one that would be bookended by another win in Paris in 2014 to secure another Championship title.

Two years on from O’Driscoll’s magic, France and Ireland met at the Stade de France once more, with Les Bleus looking to secure a third Grand Slam in six years.

There was to be no stopping them on a beautiful afternoon in Paris, with Serge Betsen and Nicolas Brusque helping themselves to two tries apiece.

France ran in five in total in a 44-5 success, with Gerald Merceron contributing 16 points from the boot in a wonderful performance.

It completed a dream campaign for France, with their women and Under-21s also completing the Grand Slam.

The emotion at Croke Park was palpable in 2007 as Ireland welcomed France for the first ever rugby match at the GAA ground.

In front of a packed house, Ireland weathered an early French storm to manoeuvre their way into a 17-13 lead with a couple of minutes remaining.

It was then that Vincent Clerc popped up in midfield to scythe through the Irish defence and over the line.

Lionel Beauxis converted and France would go onto win the Championship from Ireland on points difference.

Two years after the Clerc try, Ireland got their revenge by beating Les Bleus in the opening game of the 2009 Championship.

In a thrilling encounter which swung one way then the other, it was Declan Kidney’s team who eventually came out on top 30-21.

Imanol Harinordoquy had given France the early lead when he finished a brilliant team score on the quarter-hour, but the tone was set by Jamie Heaslip.

On 34 minutes Heaslip burst through the heart of the French defence, and then produced a memorable side step to round Clément Poitrenaud and go over for the first Ireland try.

That would be followed by O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, with that win the starting point for the first Irish Grand Slam in 61 years.

The meeting in Paris a year ago was not a classic from start to finish, but it can claim to have arguably the most dramatic finish this fixture has seen.

After trailing for much of the game, France looked to have seized the victory when Teddy Thomas scored a magnificent solo try eight minutes from time.

Ireland suddenly trailed by a point and needed something. They got it from Johnny Sexton after nearly 83 minutes, an unbelievable 45-metre drop goal that sealed an unlikely victory.

Ireland would go on to claim the Grand Slam – an achievement that can all be traced back to that one swing of Sexton’s right leg.