Ireland ensured that it would be a three-horse race for Rugby’s Greatest Championship thanks to a vital win over France in Round Four of the Guinness Six Nations.
A blitzkrieg first-half display saw Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan open up a 19-0 lead at the break, before a Keith Earls score was enough to give them a buffer ahead of a late French surge.
It was a win backed up by some impressive numbers for the reigning Grand Slam champions – we take a look at a few of the standout stats, powered by AWS, below.
Remember you can check out plenty more stats, powered by AWS, in our Match Data Downloads section here
As is indicated by the result, Joe Schmidt’s men dominated the ball in Dublin, but it was their clinical use of it that helped pave the way for their win.
Ireland converted 59% of the ball into 63% of territory, maximising their time in dangerous areas and limiting France to just 37% of territory.
And given their supremacy with the ball in hand, there is no surprise to see that Ireland’s attacking minutes – 20.8 – outstripped France’s time on the offensive – 14.7 minutes – by 50%.
SEXTON TAKES A PUNT
There is little to say about the kicking prowess of reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton that hasn’t already been said, but sometimes it’s nice to get a reminder.
Ireland resorted to the boot on no less than 19 occasions at the Aviva Stadium, with Sexton kicking a third of those and all six of his efforts categorised as tactical rather than for distance.
For the distance, Ireland relied on Gary Ringrose, who made 109m with just two punts, relieving valuable pressure when they needed it most.
France, in contrast, kicked 441m on 17 attempts – a difference made, no doubt, by the hefty boot of Ringrose.
FRANCE TACKLE THE ISSUE
One area in which the visitors predictably dominated was in the tackle.
They made 210 to Ireland’s 125 as the hosts peppered the French line in the opening 40, with Felix Lambey leading the way with 29 of his own, missing only one of the 30 that he attempted.
It was at the breakdown, however, where their discipline caused problems: while Ireland challenged for their own rucks from 0-3 seconds 73% of the time, France were there in that time-span in just 51%.
A series of impressive defensive performances should give France cause for encouragement but Jacques Brunel will likely be urging his pack to speed up in their support for Round Five’s match-up against Italy.
STANDER AND RYAN ON THE BALL
While Ireland opted for the boot a couple of times more than their opponents, it was in the carry that they truly hurt France.
Ireland’s 788m gained on 141 ball carriers asserted their hold on the game, with France notching up 412m on 83 in comparison.
Top of the pile for the hosts were James Ryan and CJ Stander, with 18 apiece as they blasted the French line in inexhaustive fashion throughout.
It was a tactic, when combined with Ireland’s preference for quick ball at the breakdown, made them an almost-impossible prospect to defend.