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From Henderson to Ringrose, five things we learned from Ireland's win over France

Ireland's Iain Henderson (right) and France's Demba Bamba.
Ireland's Iain Henderson (right) and France's Demba Bamba.

Ireland's Six Nations win over France proved a significant afternoon for some of the squad.

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Here are our five key talking points after the game:

1. All eyes turn to Cardiff for tournament climax

A Six Nations swansong for Joe Schmidt, Rory Best, Warren Gatland and no doubt a few more, has plenty riding on it. Oddly it still feels like neither nation has really fully convinced in this championship and yet both go into round five with title aspirations, Wales of course with a Grand Slam on the line. England have been the most impressive team so far but it’ll be all eyes on Cardiff to start.

2. Henderson plays himself back into Schmidt's plans

James Ryan was named man of the match but his second-row partner Iain Henderson saw his stock rise  substantially. The Ulsterman hasn’t started in a front-line Ireland team since the first Test of the Autumn against Argentina thanks to a run of injuries. With Tadhg Beirne breathing down his neck, and Devin Toner still to come back in, the impact from the fit-again Henderson was a timely one too.

3. Rivals failed to offer true test of Ireland mentality

While plenty has been written about what Ireland needed to do to get their mojo back (a week in Belfast was said to have been good for the squad) the nature of the game meant we didn’t have much chance to see whether last season’s Slam winners have their confidence back. The intensity was certainly there but, scoring so early, and France being so poor, meant the team’s mindset was never really tested.

4. France were lucky not to have been left scoreless

Ireland were so dominant for the first hour of the game that there were all manner of eye-catching stats emerging in real-time, most notably that just five seconds of the first-half was spent in their ‘22’. One footnote that fell by the wayside though was that France have not been nilled since 1991. For the longest time, a repeat looked on, before two late scores for the visitors when the game was up.

5. Ringrose has surely made centre position his own 

While it was Ireland’s pack that did most of the damage, the return of Garry Ringrose to Ireland’s midfield was undoubtedly a big plus point of the afternoon for Joe Schmidt’s side. Bar the opening round this year against England — when Robbie Henshaw was shunted to full-back - injuries have meant the head coach has not really had to force his three first-choice centres into two spots,  but it seems as if it’s Ringrose plus one of Henshaw and Bundee Aki in the side’s midfield now.

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