Six Nations 2024: France 17-38 Ireland – ‘We’re not getting carried away,’ says Peter O’Mahony

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Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony says his side are “not getting carried away” in their bid to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams for the first time.

Paul Willemse was sent off for the hosts as Jamison Gibson-Park, Tadhg Beirne, Calvin Nash, Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher touched down.

“It was a good start and a good performance,” O’Mahony told ITV Sport.

Given France won the Grand Slam in 2022 and Ireland repeated the feat a year later, the opening match of the 2024 Six Nations had been billed as a potential title or Grand Slam decider.

Willemse’s red card after 30 minutes, which came for two yellow card offences for catching Andrew Porter and Caelan Doris with a shoulder, put France at an enormous disadvantage in front of their raucous home support.

However, the French put on a valiant display and every time Ireland crossed to score the hosts hit back to keep in touch. O’Mahony was sent to the sin-bin in the aftermath of Paul Gabrillagues’ try early in the second half, but Ireland weathered the storm and late scores from hookers Sheehan and Kelleher secured victory.

The win will always come with the caveat of the red card, but Ireland were ruthless and dominant, yet have plenty of room to improve as the tournament progresses.

No nation has ever won back-to-back Grand Slam titles but, with three home matches to come, Ireland are in a favourable position to attempt it.

“We’re not going to get carried away here. We’ve certainly got a bit of momentum,” added O’Mahony, who replaced Johnny Sexton as captain after his retirement.

“It was a good performance which is what you want to start off with in a campaign like this. We’ll go and analyse it and we want to get better. That’s what we want to do and kick on.”

O’Mahony added it was “a serious test match” and he was proud of how his team handled the occasion at the Stade Velodrome.

“It’s hard to sum up, it was a serious test match. I’m very proud of the lads with our control of the game. We were cool under certain decisions and composed.

“It got a bit frantic in the last 10 minutes and we went down to 14 with my yellow card, but we stayed with the plan all the time. We didn’t get carried away with positive or negative moments.

“I thought we let a couple of opportunities go. There were a couple of silly penalties on our part when we should have been a bit more disciplined.

“I think this whole game is about taking your opportunities. Against sides who are as good as France are, they don’t come around very often, so more often than not tonight I thought we took those opportunities quite well.”

‘A special win’

Andy Farrell celebrates at full-time
Andy Farrell is aiming for back-to-back Grand Slams as Ireland boss

Ireland head coach Farrell says his players “got what we deserved” after they “kept on playing for the full 80 minutes”.

“Any type of victory here, certainly on a Friday night to start the Six Nations off, is always going to be a hard task,” he said.

“To come away with a bonus-point win, yeah, it’s special.

“I was proud of the performance because we kept on playing for the full 80 minutes and we got what we deserved in the end.

“When you are playing against 14 men sometimes you have a bit of a lead and the tendency is to shut up shop a little bit. We kept on playing and got what we deserved in the end.”

Farrell put his faith in a number of young players, including fly-half Jack Crowley, wing Nash and second row Joe McCarthy, who was named player of the match in Marseille.

“These are guys who have been in and around the squad for the past number of years,” Farrell added.

“We’ve no doubt that they are ready to play because they show that in training. Some of them have had to be patient and wait and some of them, their form guarantees that they are going to be in.

“There were some immense performances but it is a 23-man game and those youngsters are able to be themselves, and be their best confident selves because of how they make each other feel. That’s the whole squad.”

“It’s a good start. We have Italy next and getting off to a good start was always going to be a tough ask here. We’ve done that now so we need to grow off the back of it.”