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Who would you pick in a combined France-Ireland XV

04 February 2018

Alliance Party Northern Ireland Assembly member Paula Bradshaw said she had written to Ulster Rugby asking what guidance was provided to its team members in relation to attending the rape trial.

French try scorer Teddy Thomas. Their plan had been to beat France by relentless, incremental progress.

Following strong approach work by Keith Earls, Ireland made significant ground on the right-hand side. But that same policy wasn't giving up enough points on the board. As he explained after the game to the BBC, he had done this kind of thing before.

Replacement fly-half Anthony Belleau slotted the conversion but, after he failed with a testing penalty effort, Ireland rallied once more and Sexton grabbed the glory before being mobbed by his team-mates. They've got France away in the opening game and France always have the ability to do something different but that seems to be increasingly rare. About 30 seconds later they scored a try.

A ringing endorsement indeed, that must have Rob Kearney wondering how secure his place is in the side.

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After missing a crucial penalty which allowed Jacque Brunel's side a passage back into the game, Sexton stepped up the mantle when Ireland needed to score points in the dying minutes.

What happened next will be replayed over and over.

Four penalties out of five from Sexton had seen Joe Schmidt's men lead for much of the match and the fly-half held his nerve to nail a magnificent drop-goal under pressure with the last kick of the game to break France hearts. His kick-off was ideal, allowing Iain Henderson to gather the ball, as was his cross-filed kick to Keith Earls halfway through. And what a shot.

"There was definitely a quiet confidence in the squad, they have been outstanding in their preparation, and we went into the game expecting to win reasonably comfortably".

Well, it is that time of the year again when most if not all betting sites are offering odds on the Six Nations Tournament, and if you are an avid viewer of that tournament and fancy placing a bet on who you think will win then now is the best time to place your bets and wagers.

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Best added he is envious of the maturity of the two 21-year-olds - James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale - featuring in the championship on Saturday evening for the first time. With ideal timing they are at home on Saturday, with Italy the visitors.

You've got to start somewhere and we only find out how good they are if you have a dig.

Sexton, knowing the kick was good as soon as he connected, was already well on his way back into the Irish half, with several of his team-mates hounding after him, Bundee Aki leading the charge. Indeed, he must have been formulating the words in his head when Belleau stood over that last kick. "It's great to be in the position that we are now after getting an away win".

Still, France will take heart from the spirit they showed under Brunel.

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Who would you pick in a combined France-Ireland XV