SIX NATIONS RUGBY: Ireland blow golden opportunity in France admits captain Rory Best

d'Ireland's Rory Best dejected after the 10-9 loss to France in Paris
d'Ireland's Rory Best dejected after the 10-9 loss to France in Paris

Rory Best admitted Ireland blew a “massive opportunity” for victory in France that could well end their hopes of a third consecutive RBS 6 Nations title.

Ireland succumbed 10-9 in Paris, buckling under intense second-half scrum pressure, despite leading for the majority of the clash until Maxime Medard’s late try.

Dave Kearney could miss the rest of the tournament with a shoulder injury, while head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed Sean O’Brien picked up another hamstring problem, Mike McCarthy was concussed and Johnny Sexton “knocked around”.

Ireland paid the price for wasting a host of chances in the first half, with France’s replacement props Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous turning the scrummaging screw when it mattered most.

“It was definitely a massive opportunity for us that we’ll be very disappointed we weren’t able to take, to push on and win that game,” said Ireland captain Best.

“We know we had chances. When we look back at it later in the week we’ll be really disappointed.

“We’ll look in the second half on how we allowed our boys to get isolated at times.”

France had telegraphed their scrummaging intentions by leaving set-piece specialists Slimani and Ben Arous on the bench and starting instead with inexperienced duo Jefferson Poirot and Uini Atonio.

Without the injured Marty Moore and the still ring-rusty pair of Cian Healy and Mike Ross, Ireland’s scrum proved distinctly underpowered come Slimani’s and Ben Arous’ early second-half arrival.

Ireland sneaked through last weekend’s 16-16 draw with Wales despite a severely creaking scrum, but this time their set-piece folded.

Medard scooted over after four consecutive five-metre scrums where Ireland were fortunate not to concede a penalty try or receive a yellow card.

Ireland boss Schmidt lamented his side’s inability to build on the 9-3 half-time lead that came courtesy of Sexton’s three penalties, before assessing the injury catalogue.

Ireland take on England at Twickenham on February 27, with Schmidt already accepting his resources could be further depleted.

“We’re hugely disappointed with the defeat, especially having led 9-3 for so long,” said Schmidt.

“Dave Kearney has suffered an AC (acromioclavicular) joint injury to his shoulder and that will keep him out for some time.

“Jared Payne played on with a dead leg for about 30 minutes.

“Johnny Sexton knows what he’s going to get when he comes here, but he was pretty knocked around at the end of the game.

“Mike McCarthy certainly appeared to suffer a concussion, so he will now have to follow the protocols.

“Sean O’Brien suffered a hamstring injury. We feared it may have been his knee, the way he planted and turned.”