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    Post Match Press.......

    @@@@SPAN id="news_c&#111;ntent"><h2>O'Driscoll injury compounds Ireland's misery</h2>@@@@SPAN ="storytime">17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN>

    @@@@SPAN ="story">Eddie
    O'Sullivan refused to blame fixture scheduling for Ireland's
    heart-breaking failure to win the RBS 6 Nations as France were crowned
    champions by the narrowest of margins.

    Ireland's clash with
    Italy opened the final day of the championship, ensuring title rivals
    France – who defeated Scotland 46-19 – knew what they had to do to
    retain their crown.

    "It was a tough day. We entered our match
    knowing we had to win and hopefully by enough to win the championship,"
    said the Ireland coach.

    "The only thing is we didn't know how
    much we had to win by. We just kept kicking on in the game and putting
    as much points on the board as we could.

    "France did have a slight advantage in that they knew what they had to do to win the championship.

    "That's
    the way the cookie crumbles. I thought Scotland were going to do us a
    favour there, but it wasn't to be because France scored right at the
    death.

    "I don't think you can start matches on the last day at
    the same time. You're talking about moving thousands of people and TV
    times around and it's not practical.

    "You have to make a draw at the start of it and get on with it.

    "I
    suppose when a tournament is going to be decided on points difference
    like this one has been for the last two seasons, there is always a risk
    of this sort of thing happening.

    "We all know that and can't do
    anything about it. It's the way the cookie crumbles. It didn't go well
    for us today. I thought we were there but then we weren't.

    "Had France won by 40 points it would be a lot easier to swallow. It was great drama though."

    After dispatching Italy, Ireland raced back to the team hotel to catch the latter stages of France's showdown with Scotland.

    The
    squad gathered in the lobby to watch the drama unfold and an enormous
    groan rang out when Elvis Vermeulen's late try was awarded by
    television match official Simon McDowell.

    Skipper Brian
    O'Driscoll, supported by crutches after suffering a serious hamstring
    tear, looked stunned and shook his head before hobbling off.

    Irishman
    McDowell will not have done his popularity back home much good after
    awarding France the decisive try but the Triple Crown holders had a
    hand in their own downfall.

    Having established the 30-point
    cushion that would have been enough to land the title, they opted not
    to kick the ball into touch even though the clock had passed 80 minutes.

    They
    went for the try but instead turned over possession and conceded what
    proved to be the decisive score, with Roland de Marigny crossing and
    Andrea Scanavacca slotting the conversion.

    The late try reduced France's victory target against the Scots to 23 and Bernard Laporte's side eclipsed that total by four.

    It
    was the second time in the 2007 Six Nations they had leaked a late try
    to enormous cost – against France, Vincent Clerc scored with a minute
    left to end their Grand Slam dream.

    And today de Marigny crashed
    over two minutes after time had run down to end Irish hopes of landing
    their first title for 22 years.

    When the final whistle blew at
    the Stadio Flaminio this afternoon, Ireland appeared to have done
    enough to dethrone the defending champions with an eight-try rout of
    Italy.

    Girvan Dempsey and Denis Hickie ran in a brace of tries
    each while Simon Easterby, Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Horgan and Ronan O'Gara
    also crossed.

    Italy put them under heavy pressure in the first
    half and trailed just 20-12 at half-time thanks to the boot of Ramiro
    Pez, but Ireland were lethal with the ball in hand and their class
    eventually told.

    Ireland's victory was marred by the injury to O'Driscoll who had to be helped from the pitch in the second half.

    "Brian has a serious hams

    #2
    @@@@SPAN id="news_c&#111;ntent"><h2>France snatch title from Ireland</h2>@@@@SPAN ="storytime">17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN>

    @@@@SPAN ="story">France 46 Scotland 19

    France
    were just hours away from being crowned RBS 6 Nations champions for the
    fourth time in six years, barring a sensational England victory against
    Wales, after a thrilling victory over Scotland in Paris.

    France
    needed to win by 24 points to end Ireland's hopes of the title and a
    try from Elvis Vermeulen at the death for Les Bleus secured the
    required victory margin.

    Les Bleus were level on points with England and Ireland coming into the final round of matches this weekend.

    They
    were looking to bounce back from their disappointing 26-18 reverse to
    the world champions at Twickenham last Sunday, and also gain revenge
    for their surprise defeat to the Scots at Murrayfield last year.

    They
    made four changes, arguably the most crucial being the selection of
    Lionel Beauxis – making his first start for France – at fly-half in
    place of the injured David Skrela.

    Head coach Bernard Laporte was taking charge of Les Bleus in a Six Nations match for the final time.

    Scotland
    went 7-0 ahead when recalled winger Nikki Walker beat Clement
    Poitrenaud to a steepling Dan Parks up-and-under and grounded in the
    left corner. Chris Paterson kicked the extras.

    Beauxis pushed an
    early penalty wide but on his next attempt he narrowed Scotland's lead,
    and then France moved ahead when Imanol Harinordoquy bulldozed over
    from close range – Beauxis converting.

    Pierre Mignoni created a
    thrilling try for Yannick Jauzion, which Beauxis converted before
    kicking a simple penalty from under the sticks.

    Sean Lamont hit back from Scotland just before the break, with Paterson's conversion making the score 20-14.

    France had to go on the offensive and extended their lead in the 53rd minute.

    David
    Marty was sent over in the other corner, despite initially fumbling the
    ball, and Beauxis converted nonchalantly from the touchline to make it
    27-14.

    Cedric Heymans added an unconverted score in the left corner.

    Sean Lamont was sin-binned and France stretched their lead when Olivier Milloud crossed for his first international try.

    That
    gave the French a 25-point lead, but Irish hopes were revived when prop
    Euan Murray stormed over. To French relief, Paterson's conversion
    rebounded to safety off the woodwork.

    And with time running out
    Elvis Vermeulen barged over from close range – the video referee
    confirming the score – and Beauxis kicked the extras as the Stade de
    France celebrated.@@@@/SPAN>@@@@/SPAN>

    Comment


      #3
      <h1> Ireland's title deeds come to nothing </h1>
      @@@@SPAN ="storyby">By Mark Reason at the Stadio Flaminio, Sunday Telegraph@@@@/SPAN>
      <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">11:07pm GMT@@@@/SPAN>17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
      @@@@SPAN ="small">Match details
      @@@@/SPAN>
      Have your say
      Read comments

      <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1"> In Pics: Six Nations action | Telegraph TV </td></tr></t></table>Italy 24 Ireland 51 Rome
      became the green capital of the world for a day as the trattorias and
      terrazzos heaved with thousands of Irish supporters. The team did not
      let their extraordinary followers down and scored more than 50 points
      as they went for the championship on points difference. Yet when the
      final whistle blew and the Fields of Athenry rolled in off the stands
      no one actually knew who had won.<table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" ="0" width="207"><t><tr><td rowspan="2" width="8"></td><td width="199"><center></center></td></tr><tr><td ="capti&#111;n"><center>Waiting game: Brian O'Driscoll and his team-mates await their fate </center></td></tr></t></table>Sure,
      Ireland had beaten Italy but they would have to wait another two hours
      to discover they had not done enough to overtake France at the top of
      the championship. And even then the big screen went down at the crucial
      moment. What a farce.This was all about putting
      television ahead of sport and debased the history of this competition.
      Shame on the BBC who made such demands and yet did not even care enough
      about the game between France and Scotland to give it radio coverage
      ahead of a cricket match between India and Bangladesh.Perhaps
      it scarcely mattered to the 17,000 Irish amongst the crowd of 24,000 in
      Italy's capital, just as it scarcely mattered that their front five had
      taken one hell of a beating. The Irish backs proved again that they are
      of a far superior horsepower to anything else in the championship and
      scored eight tries with scarcely any ball. But Eddie O'Sullivan is too
      shrewd a coach not to analyse the huge deficiencies apparent in
      Ireland's game. Without Paul O'Connell their line-out fell apart and
      the fron

      Comment


        #4
        <h1> Ireland are the best, says Bortolami </h1>
        <div style="float: left;">@@@@SPAN ="d">Last Updated: @@@@SPAN style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">11:07pm GMT@@@@/SPAN>17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN></div>
        Have your say
        Read comments

        <table summary="" align="center" border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><t><tr bgcolor="#ffffff"><td ="mediumtxt" colspan="1"> In Pics: Six Nations action | Telegraph TV </td></tr></t></table>Ireland
        coach Eddie O'Sullivan refused to criticise his players for conceding
        the late try which cost them the RBS Six Nations title.The
        Triple Crown holders thrashed Italy 51-24 at the Stadio Flaminio, which
        gave them an excellent chance of overhauling France and winning the
        championship.But France's cause was helped when Roland de Marigny crashed over for a late Italoan try converted by Andrea Scanavacca.So France had to beat Scotland by more than 23 points and this they did with a late try themselves.<div ="mpuad"><div ="adtxt">advertisement</div>< src="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/core/NetGravity/mpu.js" =""></div>Ireland had the chance to kick the ball out before the De Marigny scored but went looking for another try and lost possession.O'Sullivan
        said: "I'd have preferred it if we hadn't given that last try away but
        you have to put it into context in that we were trying to score points.
        They came up with a good try at the end."O'Sullivan added: "I'm very happy with that performance. When you score 50 points with tries like we did you must be happy."Italy skipper Marco Bortolami claimed Ireland would have been worthy RBS Six Nations champions."Ireland
        are the best team in the tournament. The Six Nations is very tough so
        even though they lost to France they still played the best rugby," he
        said.

        Comment


          #5
          <h1 ="ing">Ireland sparkle but come up short</h1><h2 ="sub-ing padding-top-5 padding-bottom-15">Italy 24 Ireland 51</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

          <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
          generated if we are coming from a secti&#111;n or topic -><!- Print Author name associated with the article -><div id="main-article"><div ="article-author"><!- Print Author name from By Line associated with the article ->@@@@SPAN ="small">@@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN ="byline"> Peter O’Reilly at Stadio Flaminio
          @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
          <!- BEGIN: Module - Main Article -><!- Check the Article and display accordingly-><!- Print Author image associated with the Author-><!- Print the of the article-><!- Paginati&#111;n ->


          A weird and wonderful affair that took some violent and unlikely turns and
          ultimately had thousands of Irish fans rushing off in search of television
          coverage from the Stade de France afterwards. Had Denis Leamy not tapped and
          charged in stoppage time, when Ronan O’Gara was gesturing for a shot at
          goal, Ireland might have finished with an even bigger advantage on the
          French. But we can’t really blame Leamy, for Ireland had been running all
          day. Why stop now?



          They scored eight tries in all, seven of them by the backs, who played some
          sun-kissed rugby on a balmy spring afternoon. It started off as an exercise
          in pickpocketing and then turned into a full-scale mugging. But the
          Italians, to their credit, dragged themselves off the floor to fight for
          their integrity and that of the tournament.



          All week we wondered how soon in the contest Ireland would go chasing
          seven-pointers. Here, they had no option but to run and pass because their
          set-piece, struggling without the influence of Paul O’Connell, was simply
          obliterated. Ireland had to play fast and loose and ultimately it suited
          their needs. There was no point in kicking because lineouts were the last
          thing they needed — the Italians were all over Rory Best’s throw. So they
          ran and lived off their wits and took whatever good fortune was going during
          the first half. Then, as the game inevitably loosened up in the second half,
          they produced some lethal finishing.



          Ireland managed to get points on the board first but there was very little
          that was convincing about their opening. Rory Best’s first throw was plucked
          by Marco Bortolami, his second looked crooked and his third was picked off
          by Sergio Parisse. But Italy were perhaps disrupted by the early exit of
          Maurizio Zaffiri and when Ireland kept the ball long enough to force a
          penalty, O’Gara did the necessary from wide on the right.
          <!-#include ="m63-article-related-attachements."->


          Italy put things to right in the 12th minute with Ramiro Pez’s first drop
          goal. Two minutes later, Pez kicked Italy in front after Simon Easterby was
          penalised for holding on in the tackle and nobody could complain the
          stronger side were in front.



          Stronger, but not necessarily cuter, or luckier. It’s hard to know why
          Salvatore Perugini should concede a free kick at the scrum, given he had an
          obvious edge. But Ireland made their spell on the offensive count. As the
          referee played advantage for a high hit on O’Gara, Gordon D’Arcy got his
          hands through a tackle on the short side and from there, Italy were in
          trouble.



          Denis Hickie offloaded next before Brian O’Driscoll sent Girvan Dempsey in at
          the left corner. Coming to the end of the first quarter, Ireland were ahead
          by sheer opportunism. But that was nothing to Easterby’s length-of-the-field
          effort. Again, it came from a scrum that was desperately in trouble, this
          time on an Italian feed. Carlos Nieto

          Comment


            #6
            <h1 ="ing">Ireland rout Italy</h1><h2 ="sub-ing padding-top-5 padding-bottom-15">Italy 24 Ireland 51</h2><!- END: Module - Main ing -><!-CMA user Call Diffrenet Variati&#111;n Of Image ->

            <!- BEGIN: Module - M24 Article line with no image (a) -><!-set value for print friendly -><!- getting the secti&#111;n url from article. This has been d&#111;ne so that correct url is
            generated if we are coming from a secti&#111;n or topic -><!- Print Author name associated with the article -><div id="main-article"><div ="article-author"><!- Print Author name from By Line associated with the article ->@@@@SPAN ="small">@@@@/SPAN>@@@@SPAN ="byline"> BY TIMES ONLINE AND PA
            @@@@/SPAN></div></div><!- END: Module - M24 Article line with no image -><!- Article Copy module ->
            <!- BEGIN: Module - Main Article -><!- Check the Article and display accordingly-><!- Print Author image associated with the Author-><!- Print the of the article-><!- Paginati&#111;n -><!-Display article with page breaks ->


            Ireland placed one hand on the RBS Six Nations trophy after putting Italy to
            the sword at the Stadio Flaminio - and then saw the trophy snatched away two
            hours later as France pulled off a 46-19 win over Scotland.



            Expecting the Six Nations to be decided by points difference, Ireland produced
            a stunning display of attacking rugby to land an enormous psychological blow
            on France.



            Their finishing was utterly ruthless with Girvan Dempsey and Denis Hickie
            running in a brace of tries each while Simon Easterby, Gordon D'Arcy, Shane
            Horgan and Ronan O'Gara also crossed.



            Italy put them under heavy pressure in the first half, and trailed just 20-12
            at half-time thanks to the boot of Ramiro Pez, but Ireland were lethal with
            the ball in hand and their class eventually told.
            <!-#include ="m63-article-related-attachements."-><!- Call Wide Article Attachment Module -><!-TEMPLATE:call ="wideArticleAttachment.jsp" /->


            The stands were covered by huge swathes of green shirts, almost justifying
            estimates that 17,000 Irish fans had managed to buy tickets for the match.



            Travelling supporters had capitalised on an error in the Italian Rugby
            Federation's ticket selling procedures to turn the 25,000 capacity ground
            into neutral territory.



            But it was home supporters who given the most to cheer early on with Italy
            securing a turnover which Alessandro Troncon chipped into the corner for
            Kaine Robertson to chase.



            The ball bounced dead before Robertson could reach it and Ireland attacked
            from the ensuing scrum, making valuable ground until Girvan Dempsey was hit
            with a thumping tackle from Sergio Parisse.



            Shane Horgan should have passed to Denis Hickie with the Leinster winger
            lurking in midfield but Italy had already strayed offside and Ronan O'Gara
            slotted the three points.



            But Italy were back on level terms when Robertson slipped his way out of
            traffic on the right wing, setting up a thrilling passage of play with the
            Azzurri probing down both flanks.



            Bayonne fly-half Ramiro Pez opted for the drop goal and although he was on
            target, there may have been more points on offer had they kept the ball in
            hand.



            Italy edged ahead when Pez landed a penalty but Ireland's reply was swift,
            running a free-kick after Italy had been penalised at a scrum.




            Gordon D'Arcy and Denis Hickie combined initially to release Brian O'Driscoll
            with the Ireland skipper drawing Roland de Marigny and supplying the scoring
            pass to Dempsey.



            Just as Italy appeared to be building up a head of steam, they were hit by a
            stroke of bad luck as the ball bounced free from a scrum and into the path
            of Peter Stringer.



            Ireland pounced with clinical efficiency, David Wallace gathering up the ball
            and feeding Easterby who presented Horgan with a race to the line.



            The Leinster winger was halted by de Mari

            Comment


              #7


              IRELAND LOST TITLE IN CROKE PARK


              discuss
              Excellence is hard to keep quite - Sherrie Coale

              Comment


                #8
                <div id="article">
                <h2>Ireland blitz not enough</h2>
                <div ="subarticle">
                By Ben Blackmore - Created on 17 Mar 07</div>
                </div>
                <div id="article">

                Ireland
                moved to the brink of their first Six Nations Championship title after
                they hammered Italy51-24 to heap pressure on rivals France.


                Starting the day with a four-point deficit to make up on leaders
                France, the Triple Crown-winners knew they had to post a sizeable
                victory in order to put pressure on the outcome of Les Bleus' clash
                with Scotland.


                They did just that in front of a raucous atmosphere at the Stadio
                Flaminio, building a 23-point lead as Denis Hickie and Gordon D'Arcy
                provided the inspiration in front of a 17,000-strong Irish following in
                Rome.


                The Leinster stars created three tries and scored another three
                between them as Ireland chalked up eight scores through Girvan Dempsey
                (2), Simon Easterby, Shane Horgan, Ronan O'Gara, D'Arcy and Hickie (2).


                Eddie O'Sullivan's men had to be patient as Italy clung onto their
                coat-tails in an absorbing first half, but as soon as Dempsey went over
                at the start of the second half the floodgates opened.


                The big test for Ireland was always going to be their patience when
                in possession of the football and there was a clear intention from the
                outset to keep ball in hand, forcing a fifth-minute penalty that O'Gara
                nailed for 3-0.


                Ireland now knew a further score would begin to build a points
                advantage over France, but that scenario failed to materialise as
                Ramiro Pez pegged them back with a well-executed drop-goal.


                That prompted one or two signs of impatience in the visitors' game
                as they attempted to get back in front, and twice they were too keen at
                the breakdown, with Pez taking full advantage for a surprise 6-3
                scoreline.


                Ireland needed to forget about the situation and trust in their own
                quality, and it was D'Arcy who did just that to inspire a wonderful -
                typically Irish - opening try.


                Making the half break past opposite number Mirco Bergamasco, D'Arcy
                offloaded out of the tackle to Hickie, who switched the ball inside to
                Brian O'Driscoll before the Leinster man reversed it back outside to
                Dempsey for the touchdown.


                Unfortunately O'Gara could not add the extras, drawing perhaps the
                loudest groan you will ever hear for a missed 20th-minute conversion.


                Ireland's fans were not to be disappointed for long though as more
                superb running rugby saw the visitors take a 13-6 lead thanks to a
                70-yard counter.


                David Wallace was alert to loose ball at the Italian scrum, allowing
                Shane Horgan to move through the gears down the right flank, drawing in
                full-back Roland de Marigny to feed Easterby for the score.


                Once again O'Gara was off target with the conversion and when Pez
                landed his second penalty of the afternoon Ireland's points difference
                over France was wiped out once more.


                The Azzurri were playing on their opponents' frustration, kicking
                for territory and then allowing Pez to do the punishing, which he did
                with some aplomb as a second drop-goal dragged the scores back to
                13-12.


                The Italians were clearly not sticking to the St Patrick's Day
                script and could even have moved ahead through another Pez penalty
                attempt, but instead it was Ireland who went into half-time on a
                massive high thanks to that man D'Arcy again.


                With play seemingly petering out into the interval, O'Gara suddenly
                flipped the ball inside to Hickie, who once again found a fine offload
                to find D'Arcy, who brilliantly meandered past two players for a
                converted 20-12 half-time lead.


                Ireland now had a four-point advantage over France, and the question
                was how many more could they add before Les Bleus kicked off in

                Comment


                  #9
                  <div ="line">
                  O'Sullivan content with Rome win
                  </div>




                  <div ="bo">



                  Rome - 17 March, 2007







                  </div>





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                  Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said his players were right to keep the
                  match going in stoppage-time despite conceding a crucial late try to
                  Italy.











                  The Irish won 51-24 but the winning margin proved insufficient to beat France to the Six Nations title on points difference.











                  "In this situation you should never die wondering," said O'Sullivan.











                  "We cannot change it now and I would not want to change it. I am very happy with that performance."









                  <div ="bo">








                  </div>





                  <div ="i">



                  <table>



                  <t><tr>



                  <td width="5">




                  </td>



                  <td ="fact">



                  <!-Smva->







                  We could wallow in self-pity now, but I don't think that would be the right thing to do












                  <!-Emva->



                  <!-Smva->



                  <!-Smva->



                  Eddie O'Sullivan



                  <!-Emva->



                  <!-Emva->



                  </td>



                  </tr>



                  </t></table>









                  </div>

                  <div ="bo">






                  Minutes after the final whistle in Rome, France went into their match
                  against Scotland knowing they would have to win by more than 23 points
                  to snatch the championship.






                  And the French clinched the crown in a knife-edge finish, getting the title-clinching score in stoppage-time in Paris.







                  "It's hard to take, but that's sport. We could wallow in self-pity now,
                  but I don't think that would be the right thing to do," added
                  O'Sullivan.






                  "We've won four out of five matches, played some great rugby and scored some great tries. We have to kick on from here."











                  Ireland winger Denis Hickie admitted they had doubted if their winning margin against Italy would be sufficient.









                  Comment


                    #10
                    <h3>Ireland player ratings</h3>

                    <ul ="entryextras"><li ="comments">
                    Comments (84)[/list]


                    <ul ="entrydetails"><li ="author">Rob Hodgetts - BBC Sport journalist<li ="date">17 Mar 07, 02:24 PM[/list]







                    London - Ireland ran riot at Stadio Flaminio with a 51-24 victory over Italy to leave France needing to beat Scotland by 24 points to win the Six Nations title.



                    See if you agree with my ratings of the Ireland team.



                    Dempsey - 8:
                    A man in form. Dumped on his rear by Parisse early on but finished off
                    a good move for Ireland's first try and ran a sweet line for an inside
                    ball off O'Gara for his second.



                    Horgan - 8: Industrious, busy and always looking
                    for work. Superb break-out and off-load for Easterby try, another break
                    from deep on half-hour and scored himself after good work from Hickie.



                    B O'Driscoll - 8: Class as always. Great hands in
                    attack, involved in most of Ireland's good stuff and a permanent
                    menace. Trojan-like in defence until limped off injured with a
                    suspected torn hamstring 15 minutes from time.



                    D'Arcy - 9: A real handful. His surge led to Dempsey's
                    first try, and razor-sharp finishing brought him Ireland's third try,
                    while there were other breaks aplenty. His more illustrious midfield
                    partner may take more of the plaudits but D'Arcy in this form is
                    arguably just as good.



                    Hickie - 9: A devastating weapon for the Irish.
                    Intelligent and powerful running led to two tries and was instrumental
                    in Horgan's score. Copy-book ever so slightly blotted when he was
                    outjumped by Italian lock Marco Bortolami for a late score, but you can
                    hardly blame him for that.



                    O'Gara - 7: Good link work, good hands and always
                    sniffing out opportunities to release his back line. Missed a few kicks
                    but otherwise an accomplished day at the office.



                    Stringer - 7: Struggled to escape the clutches of
                    the Italian back row in the first-half but good, fast distribution in
                    Ireland's second-half purple patch. Quick to join in the attacks and
                    reacted well to avert an Italian try in the last 10 minutes.



                    Horan - 7: Under a bit of pressure in the scrum but showed his footballing abilities in the loose.



                    R. Best - 6: First line-out throw straight to Bortolami, others not straight and generally had trouble finding his jumpers.



                    Hayes - 6: Given a tough work-out in the scrum but good defensive effort.



                    O'Callaghan -7: Solid line-out work but too obvious a target at times and Ireland forced to switch emphasis in second half.



                    M. O'Driscoll - 6: Put himself about as a
                    ball-carrier and tackler but unable to provide line-out presence of
                    absent O'Connell. Forced off injured after 53 minutes.



                    Easterby - 8: Industrious and forceful. Twice involved in second try - superb support to claim scoring pass from Horgan.



                    D. Wallace -8: Opportunistic pick-up from Italian
                    scrum led to Easterby try. Plenty of ball-carrying, linked well in
                    attack and terrier-like at breakdown. An unsung hero for Ireland.



                    Leamy - 7: Not as imposing as normal at base of scrum but effectiv

                    Comment


                      #11
                      [QUOTE=Fly_caster]@@@@SPAN id=news_c&#111;ntent>
                      <H2>O'Driscoll injury compounds Ireland's misery</H2>


                      @@@@SPAN ="storytime">17/03/2007@@@@/SPAN>

                      @@@@SPAN ="story">Eddie O'Sullivan refused to blame fixture scheduling for Ireland's heart-breaking failure to win the RBS 6 Nations as France were crowned champions by the narrowest of margins.

                      Ireland's clash with Italy opened the final day of the championship, ensuring title rivals France – who defeated Scotland 46-19 – knew what they had to do to retain their crown.

                      "It was a tough day. We entered our match knowing we had to win and hopefully by enough to win the championship," said the Ireland coach.

                      "The only thing is we didn't know how much we had to win by. We just kept kicking on in the game and putting as much points on the board as we could.

                      "France did have a slight advantage in that they knew what they had to do to win the championship.

                      "That's the way the cookie crumbles. I thought Scotland were going to do us a favour there, but it wasn't to be because France scored right at the death.

                      "I don't think you can start matches on the last day at the same time. You're talking about moving thousands of people and TV times around and it's not practical.

                      "You have to make a draw at the start of it and get on with it.

                      "I suppose when a tournament is going to be decided on points difference like this one has been for the last two seasons, there is always a risk of this sort of thing happening.

                      "We all know that and can't do anything about it. It's the way the cookie crumbles. It didn't go well for us today. I thought we were there but then we weren't.

                      "Had France won by 40 points it would be a lot easier to swallow. It was great drama though."

                      After dispatching Italy, Ireland raced back to the team hotel to catch the latter stages of France's showdown with Scotland.

                      The squad gathered in the lobby to watch the drama unfold and an enormous groan rang out when Elvis Vermeulen's late try was awarded by television match official Simon McDowell.

                      Skipper Brian O'Driscoll, supported by crutches after suffering a serious hamstring tear, looked stunned and shook his head before hobbling off.

                      Irishman McDowell will not have done his popularity back home much good after awarding France the decisive try but the Triple Crown holders had a hand in their own downfall.

                      Having established the 30-point cushion that would have been enough to land the title, they opted not to kick the ball into touch even though the clock had passed 80 minutes.

                      They went for the try but instead turned over possession and conceded what proved to be the decisive score, with Roland de Marigny crossing and Andrea Scanavacca slotting the conversion.

                      The late try reduced France's victory target against the Scots to 23 and Bernard Laporte's side eclipsed that total by four.

                      It was the second time in the 2007 Six Nations they had leaked a late try to enormous cost – against France, Vincent Clerc scored with a minute left to end their Grand Slam dream.

                      And today de Marigny crashed over two minutes after time had run down to end Irish hopes of landing their first title for 22 years.

                      When the final whistle blew at the Stadio Flaminio this afternoon, Ireland appeared to have done enough to dethrone the defending champions with an eight-try rout of Italy.

                      Girvan Dempsey and Denis Hickie ran in a brace of tries each while Simon Easterby, Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Horgan and Ronan O'Gara also crossed.

                      Italy put them under heavy pressure in the first half and trailed just 20-12 at half-time thanks to the boot of Ramiro Pez, but Ireland were lethal with the ball in hand and their class eventually told.

                      Ireland's victory was marred by the injury to O'Driscoll who had to be helped from the pitch in the second half.

                      "Bri

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by McCloud


                        IRELAND LOST TITLE IN CROKE PARK


                        discuss


                        That seems a pretty obvious conclusion
                        Anybody who sees a psychiatrist would want their head examined.*&nb sp;Henry Ford

                        Comment


                          #13
                          No Euro stars here
                          The major winners of the Six Nations are the All Blacks
                          Stephen Jones
                          It is perfectly permissible to revel in the RBS Six Nations. The 2007
                          event was the most fascinating for years, the most vivid and best
                          attended. The champions, France, are far from a great side, though
                          the other measurement numbers — for tries, tension, commercial
                          rapacity, pints sunk, emotions expended, anthems bellowed, instant
                          terrace sociology lectures absorbed — are astronomical. But
                          suddenly there is a sense of dismay, and not just because the grand
                          winter festival is over.

                          The problem is that the sub-plot became the main event, and it is
                          over before it started. The tournament was meant to throw up a
                          powerful contender for the World Cup, a team to make Graham
                          Henry, the New Zealand coach, quake in his bed. What happened?
                          Along with the parallel news release that every Kiwi squad member
                          now stands 7ft and runs the 100m in under nine seconds, we are left
                          to confront the chilling reality that not one of the six teams bar Italy,
                          who won’t contend anyway, emerges from the tournament in better
                          shape, let alone ready to blast into the stratosphere. The suspicion is
                          growing that the All Blacks will not have to be sublime in France.
                          They will just have to be there.

                          Vintage it never was. So can our Euro heroes claim that they were
                          not flat out, that they were experimenting, that their long, lung-
                          bursting summer of preparation and beefing up will revive them?
                          Maybe. But they would be foolish to do so. France missed a Grand
                          Slam through incoherence masquerading as a careful process, but
                          momentum never grew; England tried about three different
                          approaches, often foisted on them by accident and injury rather than
                          grand design and arrived in Cardiff with a season still only one defeat
                          away from disaster.

                          Yet the team that should be most disappointed at the end of the
                          championship, in terms of aspirations for the World Cup, is Ireland.
                          Wonderful climax to the championship and no shame, and nothing
                          but high praise, for treating it all as an end in itself. But in world
                          terms they were found wanting. They came up short, and not
                          because Vincent Clerc darted through poor defence at Croke Park.
                          They did not win the Grand Slam because they were not good
                          enough.

                          Where do they go to improve? Even France, so craven and dire at
                          Twickenham last Sunday, can point to the fact that Damien Traille,
                          Fabien Pelous, Sylvain Marconnet, Olivier Magne, Remy Martin and
                          Yannick Nyanga can provide supercharged reinforcements and that
                          they may be galvanised when the fog clears from the pea-souper
                          rugby head of Bernard Laporte, their coach. David Skrela still worries
                          me as a potential World Cup fly-half, and the feeble, poodle-like
                          efforts of the pack at Twickenham amounted to nothing less than a
                          surrender. But there is room to move and to improve. They must. If
                          France play in the World Cup as they did last Sunday, they will be
                          jeered though every municipality in the country.

                          Even England have scope to improve. When their heads stop spinning
                          with tactical switches and different selection philosophies, and
                          provided the idea that only nippers are worth choosing does not get
                          out of hand, they may all be facing in the same direction. They can
                          even add to yesterday’s squad, provided they are fit and firing,
                          Jonny Wilkinson, Andrew Sheridan, Matt Stevens, Phil Vickery, Mike
                          Tindall, Dylan Hartley, Dan Ward-Smith and Charlie Hodgson to add
                          some glitter. You would not put your house on them, but England will
                          be better come September.

                          Yet Ireland

                          Comment


                            #14

                            Chin up Ireland, well done the Bull . . . and keep her lit Trev</font>



                            Sunday March 18th 2007</font>



                            TWO lapses in concentration cost Ireland the 2007 Grand Slam and championship. </font>



                            The first dates back to our failure to deal with the restart which led
                            to Vincent Clerc's match-winning try for France in Croke Park. </font>


                            The
                            second was the lack of on-field leadership which saw Denis Leamy opt to
                            run a penalty at the death in Rome and led, indirectly, to seven more
                            points for Italy and seven less points for Ireland in their
                            championship-deciding differential tussle with the French. </font>



                            It was a disappointing end to the campaign but let's not be too
                            despondent - this is a team on the up with a great deal to play for at
                            the World Cup. </font>


                            There
                            was a carnival St Patrick's Day atmosphere on a balmy spring afternoon
                            in the Eternal City yesterday. The Six Nations championship was still
                            up for grabs and Ireland's favourite referee, South Africa's Jonathan
                            Kaplan, had the whistle in his hand - what more could we have asked
                            for? </font>


                            Well,
                            Paul O'Connell for starters, and an Italian team of the pre-2007
                            vintage would also have been nice. Ronan O'Gara's kicking boots even.
                            O'Connell's absence was felt most keenly in the lineout. </font>


                            It
                            simply didn't function in the first half. However, the deficiency was
                            more than adequately compensated for by the Irish team's willingness to
                            explore attacking opportunities from the most unlikely field positions
                            - unlikely, that is, to the seasoned Irish observer. </font>


                            Yet,
                            this Irish team, operating in the era of highly organised defences, has
                            deliberately set out to break down the opposition where defences are at
                            their most vulnerable - as far from the try-line as possible. And, with
                            the marked improvement in continuity brought about by skills coach
                            Brian McLoughlin, an exciting dimension has been brought to the Irish
                            game. It is a dimension admirably suited to the talents of Brian
                            O'Driscoll, Denis Hickie, Shane Horgan, David Wallace and, especially,
                            Gordon D'Arcy. </font>


                            His
                            try on the stroke of half-time effectively killed off the Italian
                            challenge, leaving the Irish winning margin as the only issue to be
                            resolved in the second period. It was resolved in emphatic fashion by
                            an Irish team which finally achieved what they failed to do in Cardiff
                            or Murrayfield - dispose of inferior opposition clinically and
                            efficiently. </font>



                            I wrote last week of certain bugbears of mine concerning referees and I
                            want to add another to the list. Several of four tries yesterday
                            involved forward passes. As with the crooked feed into the scrum, there
                            has been a very high tolerance for this type of offence in Southern
                            Hemisphere rugby, and with the referee-exchange system, there have been
                            worrying examples of the malaise spreading across the equator. </font>



                            The backward pass is a sine qua non of the game, far more than a core
                            value - without it we have nothing. If it is

                            Comment


                              #15

                              Elvis on song for French to leave Irish all shook up</font>



                              Sunday March 18th 2007</font>



                              FRANCE 46


                              SCOTLAND 19


                              MICHAEL STREETER


                              at Stade de France



                              ELVIS is back - and a jubilant France will be grateful for that.


                              The powerful No 8, Elvis Vermeulen, came on as a late substitute to
                              score the try that gave the home side their fourth Six Nations title in
                              six years.


                              The score came - with the aid of the video ref, Irishman Simon
                              McDowell - from the last play of a thrilling match and deprived Ireland
                              of the title just as it seemed that a late try from Scotland prop Euan
                              Murray had itself thwarted Bernard Laporte's team.


                              "I'm very proud of the guys," said captain Raphael Ibanez.


                              "After last week against England we showed some character here
                              today. I'm not sure it will mean anything for the World Cup but we
                              played well and won the Six Nations and that is good."


                              France started the game knowing they needed to win by at least 24
                              points after Ireland's demolition of Italy. They made hard work at
                              first against a battling and aggressive Scotland who played a full part
                              in this gripping game. However, a flurry of second-half tries and a
                              wonderful performance by scrumhalf Pierre Mignoni appeared to have won
                              not just the game but the title - before the desperate finale.


                              If France thought they had an uphill battle at the start of the
                              game, the incline rapidly got steeper as Scotland showed their
                              aggressive intent from the outset. A sustained drive from the visiting
                              forwards inched into the French half and produced an easy penalty kick
                              chance for Chris Paterson. Unaccountably, the tournament's best kicker
                              missed.


                              However, an edgy home side were soon a try down. The Scotland pack
                              tried to drive over from a lineout, but when they were stopped in their
                              tracks Dan Parks floated a clever cross-field kick. Clement Poitrenaud
                              could not control the ball and Nikki Walker touched down for a deserved
                              try. Paterson converted and such was their urgency that a spectator
                              just arriving could have been forgiven for thinking that Scotland were
                              the team pressing to win the tournament.


                              However, slowly, Yannick Jauzion, Mignoni and Cedric Heymans began to give their side some shape and pace.


                              After Lionel Beauxis had finally managed a penalty, a break from
                              Heymans set up a France penalty. Turning down a certain three, France
                              went for a planned forwards move and Imanol Harinordoquy, recalled at
                              No 8, touched down.


                              By now, with the French pack well on top, the home side were playing wonderful rugby.


                              Their second try came when the impressive Mignoni made a break just
                              inside the Scotland half, kicked and gathered and then fed Jauzion for
                              the score. Two converted tries and expectation was rising.


                              But the home side's defence fatally relaxed and Sean Lamont broke
                              through in midfield. He passed to Paterson who was tackled but France
                              infringed at the breakdown.


                              Without a moment's hesitation Lamont tapped and ran for the line,
                              catching France unaware as he touched down virtually unopposed.
                              Paterson's conversion meant that France at 20-14 were six ahead.


                              Knowing they needed to score quickly after the break they started at
                              a frantic pace, but it was Scotland who had the best early scoring
                              chance when Paterson was only deprived of a score by a narrow forward
                              pass. France, however, were not to be denied.


                              Jerome Thion squandered a wonderful overlap, but eventually
                              Scotland's heroic defence ran out of men, and David Marty crept over to
                              score wide on the right. Soon afterwards, Marty was the link man
                              between Jauzion and Heymans,

                              Comment

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