Murphy bitter at the scale of Ireland's unequal struggle

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Ireland 7

France 25

Ireland, down on their luck and almost down on their knees, attempted to come to terms with the harsh reality of modern rugby after the latest dbcle. "Rather than define amateurism we should be defining professionalism," Noel Murphy, the manager, said. "You know what I mean."

Murphy fell short of crying foul although he came close to it at a press conference that resembled a wake. "We have stuck more rigidly to the amateur code than others," he said. "It is obvious that we must do more for our players."

Murphy, working on the basis that if you can't beat them join them, announced that Ireland would develop a centre of excellence for 40 players.

"Australia manage to maximise their top players by whatever means," Murphy said. "I'm not saying everyone should become professional but there should be professional help and advice available. Other players have more time to develop. Now we've got to do what other countries are doing."

Gerry Murphy, the coach, echoing the call for an "lite programme" said: "Those players would have to have more time. It would be no use somebody saying, `I can't go out to practise my goal-kicking because I've got to work'."

Ireland's cause was not helped, of course, by several late withdrawals. "A few years ago if we'd lost three players we wouldn't have had a team at all," the coach said. "You and I would have been playing. We are going on to the pitch less prepared than other teams."

The two Murphys sounded exasperated at what they see as an unequal struggle. Noel pointed out that the French players had superior upper-body strength and was dismayed by the ease with which they broke the first tackle. "Three of their tries were the result of loose tackling," he said, but in this regard he was not giving France enough credit.

Ireland fielded a cruiserweight pack compared with a French juggernaut, and their back row was engaged in an unequal struggle. But even if France were bigger, stronger, cleverer and more professional in more ways than one, it was not the whole story.

Ireland, through Davy Tweed and Gabriel Fulcher, enjoyed a remarkable 64 per cent of line-out possession and the referee awarded them 17 penalties to France's three. Not one of those three came in a second half in which the French scored four tries. Since Ireland last beat France in 1983 the try difference between the countries is 40-5.

One of Ireland's problems was that the half-backs, Michael Bradley and the recalled Eric Elwood, did not use possession half as well as Yann Delaigue and Guy Accoceberry. Early in the game, when Ireland had a gilt- edged chance, Bradley ignored Brendan Mullin and threw a crazy pass to Simon Geoghegan, which the wing never touched. As for Elwood, his kicking, for the most part, was awful.

A couple of late tries by France gave some justice to the scoreline. It could have been a right pasting. Emile N'Tamack and Delaigue were in a class of their own. With the ball in his hands N'Tamack, who has been called in the French quarter the new Blanco, was all grace and style, but some of his attempts at goal-kicking were embarrassing.

He has an unorthodox style with almost no run-up. It is simply not possible that he is the best kicker in France. In fact, he could be the worst. Asked about this, Pierre Berbizier replied with typical logic: "Did Elwood do better?" Whether Elwood goes to the World Cup is questionable but N'Tamack will be there, and as a goal-kicker to boot.

Berbizier thought it was one of France's best performances in Dublin. "We started the season with confidence, there was a black hole in the middle and we are confident now," he said.

On the question of professionalism there was more wink-wink, nudge-nudge from Jim Staples, the Ireland full-back who plays for Harlequins.

"Everybody keeps going on about Australia, New Zealand and France, but what do some of the England players actually do for a living?" Staples, a dealer in London in Government bonds, added: "If somebody offered me £30,000 tomorrow to play rugby full-time, I'd say no."

Ireland: Try Geoghegan; Conversion Elwood. France: Tries Delaigue, Ccillon, N'Tamack, Saint-Andr; Conversion N'Tamack; Penalty N'Tamack.

IRELAND: J Staples (Harlequins); S Geoghegan (Bath), B Mullin (Blackrock), P Danaher (Garryowen), N Woods (Blackrock); E Elwood (Lansdowne), M Bradley (Constitution,capt); N Popplewell (Wasps), T Kingston (Dolphin), P Clohessy (Young Munster), D Tweed (Ballymena), G Fulcher (Constitution), E Halvey (Shannon), A Foley (Shannon), D McBride (Malone). Replacement: M Field (Malone) for Mullin, 40.

FRANCE: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); E N'Tamack (Toulouse), P Sella (Agen), F Mesnel (Racing Club), P Saint-Andr (Montferrand, capt); Y Delaigue (Toulon), G Accoceberry (Bgles); L Armary (Lourdes), J-M Gonzals (Bayonne), C Califano (Toulouse), O Merle (Montferrand), O Brouzet (Grenoble), P Benetton (Agen), M Ccillon (Bourgoin), A Benazzi (Agen).

Referee: C Thomas (Wales).