O'Driscoll returns but Ireland suffer third loss on the spin

Ireland 22 France 26
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The Independent Online

Ireland's preparations for the World Cup deteriorated as France sent them spinning to a third successive defeat. An eighth-minute try from the prop Cian Healy, who later had to be helped from the pitch, put Ireland ahead but France scored 26 unanswered points.

Brian O'Driscoll returned to lead Ireland after recovering from injury, and any nerves were settled by a third-minute penalty from Jonathan Sexton. A bulldozing run from Sean O'Brien, flattening the French fly-half, David Skrela, led to Healy's try.

Morgan Parra kicked a penalty and François Trinh-Duc dropped a goal from near halfway. In the 31st minute, France produced a marvellous try, Aurélien Rougerie threading his way into a half-gap and slipping the ball to Cédric Heymans, who sprinted over. Parra converted.

Keith Earls was penalised for tackling Trinh-Duc without the ball, handing Parra three points, and Parra then kicked his third penalty before Tomas O'Leary launched a long pass to Jamie Heaslip that was intercepted by Trinh-Duc. Parra converted once again.

Stephen Ferris and Jerry Flannery were brought on but the Ireland full-back, Felix Jones, followed Healy off, after falling awkwardly under a high ball. Sexton scored after a run from Luke Fitzgerald. Ronan O'Gara converted. O'Brien scored an injury-time try, which O'Gara also converted, but Ireland were too far behind.

Ireland F Jones (Munster); A Trimble (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy (both Leinster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (both Munster), S O'Brien, J Heaslip, S Jennings (all Leinster). Replacements T Court (Ulster) for Healy, 50; E Reddan (Leinster) for O'Leary, 53; S Ferris (Ulster) for Jennings, 60; J Flannery (Munster) for Best, 60; R O'Gara (Munster) for D'Arcy, 67; L Fitzgerald (Leinster) for Jones, 68; M McCarthy (Connacht) for O'Callaghan, 75.

France C Heymans; M Médard (both Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), F Estebanez, A Palisson (both Brive); D Skrela (Toulouse), M Parra (Clermont); JB Poux (Toulouse), D Szarzewski (Stade Français), N Mas (Perpignan), P Pape (Stade Français), Nallet (Racing Metro), F Ouedraogo (Montpellier), L Picamoles (Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Clermont). Replacements F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier) for Skrela, 13; F Barcella (Biarritz) for Poux, 40; G Guirado (Perpignan) for Szarzewski, 53; J Pierre (Clermont) for Pape, 60; V Clerc (Toulouse) for Rougerie, 72.

Referee C Joubert (South Africa)