Even though he wasn’t attempting to put the boot in, the former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll was surprised.
As Ireland attempted to complete what would have been another amazing comeback in Paris, referee Angus Gardner awarded them a penalty in front of the posts with seven minutes remaining. Brian O’Driscoll wanted them to attack from the lineout.
Many supporters at home and at Stade de France pushed Ireland to go for the kill when they scored early in the second half from an aggressive lineout drive.
Instead, captain James Ryan spoke with the team’s on-field experts and instructed Joey Carbery to aim for the goal posts. He dutifully did so, bringing Ireland’s deficit to only 27-24 with plenty of time to mount at least one more solid attempt.
As it turned out, France attacked with vigour and came near to scoring a try before Melvyn Jaminet kicked a close-range penalty to make the score 30-24. Ireland still had an opportunity to score late, but bad choices from replacement Jack Carty and fullback Hugo Keenan saw possession wasted twice, allowing France to win.
Following the game, former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll questioned James Ryan’s decision, which kept France on track for a Grand Slam.
Following the game, which keeps France on course for a Grand Slam, former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll questioned that James Ryan call.
“They didn’t back themselves,” says Brian O’Driscoll
In the post-match analysis on ITV, O’Driscoll reflected on that late call by James Ryan.
“Listen, of course it’s not the right call because they haven’t won the game now. It’s easy to look back retrospectively.
“But, in real time, all of us were obviously deliberating it here (in the studio). Because they had success from the previous maul, that van der Flier had got his try from, it seemed like the obvious route to go. They were six points behind so they’d have to score at least another penalty to only draw the game. Seven points would have put them into the lead if they had scored the try and knocked over the conversion.
“I’m just surprised – with this team’s mentality, they go to the corner so often. And yet, when it got tight like this, they didn’t back themselves.”
The comments of O’Driscoll were echoed by former Wales star Gareth Thomas, in the ITV studio, and Shane Horgan in the Virgin Media studio [back in Ireland].
Asked about the decision to go for the posts, rather than an attacking lineout, James Ryan responded:
“I felt like that was the right decision at the time… we backed ourselves to get within three points and win the game after that.”
“It’s the right decision,” said Ireland coach Andy Farrell in the same post-match briefing.”There’s no doubt about that.”