Le Pays De France - Farrell praises Irish character and spirit in gallant French defeat

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Farrell praises Irish character and spirit in gallant French defeat
Farrell praises Irish character and spirit in gallant French defeat

Farrell praises Irish character and spirit in gallant French defeat

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell praised the "spirit" and "character" of his side after they came from 22-7 down early in the second-half to agonisingly lose 30-24 to France in a thrilling Six Nations clash on Saturday.

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Defeat ended Ireland's hopes of the Grand Slam and brought to a halt an impressive nine-Test winning run -- the French being the last side to beat them almost a year to the day in February 2021.

However, Farrell drew a lot from a performance that saw them go 10-0 down inside the first 10 minutes and then look down and out when the French extended their lead to 22-7 three minutes into the second-half.

However, two converted tries brought them to within a point -- the French though did enough to keep their noses in front to earn what Farrell said was "a deserved victory."

"I already knew we had character, I already knew the squad was unbelievably fit and the strength was something that we expect of ourselves," said Farrell.

"Any side that comes here to Paris and gets to within a point, having been 22-7 down, we have seen many times France take advantage of that and tip those teams over the edge.

"That wasn't the case with us. Our mental strength was very good."

James Ryan -- who replaced the injured Johnny Sexton as Ireland captain for the match -- said the French had posed a far tougher challenge than defending champions Wales, who the Irish had beaten 29-7 last Saturday.

"It was up there in terms of being one of the most intense Tests of my career definitely," he said.

"It was up a level from last week, we probably made it hard for ourselves at times.

"We did not start too well, we allowed them to get access into the game, we made life tough for ourselves.

"We showed some grit to claw our way back. We'll take loads of learnings from that."

- 'Excellent' Carbery -

Ryan said that he felt it right to go for three points with a penalty eight minutes from time rather than aim for the corner and try and score a try from the ensuing lineout.

Joey Carbery converted the penalty to leave the Irish trailing 27-24.

"It felt like the right decision at the time, we were imposing our game on them in that period," said Ryan.

"We felt confident in our attack, we thought we'd bring our game to within three points and backed ourselves to go win the game on the back of that," added the 25-year-old second row forward.

Former rugby league great Farrell was fulsome in his praise of fly-half Joey Carbery, who had come in for Sexton, in what was his first Six Nations start despite making his Test debut six years ago.

"Joey was excellent, obviously everyone was curious to see how he would go but it didn't surprise us," said Farrell.

"He was himself, he kicked beautifully for goal and I think he controlled the game pretty well."

Farrell predicted many more twists to come in the Six Nations.

"The competition is slightly in France's favour, they have had two home games and two wins, but the competition is only getting going," said the 46-year-old Englishman.