• France take on Ireland in final Pool D World Cup match in Cardiff
  • Winner will top the group and face Argentina in quarter final 
  • Loser of this clash takes on world champions New Zealand 
  • France XV: Spedding; Nakaitaci, Bastareaud, Fofana, Dulin; Michalak, Tillous-Borde; Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani; Pape, Maestri; Dusautoir (c), Couly, Picamoles 
  • Ireland XV: R Kearney; Bowe, Earls, Henshaw, D Kearney; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross; Toner, O’Connell (c); O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip 
  • RWC 2015: CLICK HERE for all the latest Rugby World Cup news 

Jonny Singer for MailOnline

  • Jonny Singer

    Host commentator

A rare Rob Kearney error under the high ball, and suddenly France have a chance. Spedding breaks a tackle or two before he’s stopped, but then O’Brien steals the ball off Ben Arous.

Earls tries a chip and chase, and very nearly regathers, moments after Sexton took a massive – fair – hit from Louis Picamoles. He’s down again.  

And off he goes – what a massive moment. Ian Madigan comes on, but that is a big blow to the Irish gameplan.

Spedding will have a third go from range – this one is even further out, inside his own half.

And this is his best of the night, a massive effort to level the game again. 

Jonathan Sexton looking a bit ropey here. The Ireland No 10’s kick was partially charged down and it looks like it might have jarred his leg a bit. Huge worry for Ireland here.

This time Ireland decide the run the ball out from the kick off, and they are making some ground, mostly with the rumbling forwards, before Sexton launches an up and under.

Spedding claims it brilliantly, but then it gets a little scrappy and Nakaitaci is under some pressure. He wriggles away well enough, and France clear.

Then a really poor kick from Sexton invites Dulin to run, but the Irish 10 saves himself with a good tackle.

At the next phase O’Mahony is penalised for a high tackle. Ugly, but probably not dangerous. Just a penalty. 

Ireland with their first attacking platform of the game inside French territory, from a line-out.

Rory Best gets smashed by Bastareaud – there’s a whole lot of muscle in that collision – and then, with a penalty coming, Sexton tries a drop goal.

He strikes the post, but with the advantage he’ll have another go from the tee… no mistake.

This time he gets it through the uprights. Back all square.

Bit early to say, but that could be a huge momentum shift. France have left six points a begging after early misses from Michalak and Spedding. Sexton fires over a penalty to put Ireland 3-0 in front.

Wow. Catching the ball when one Kearney is competing with you is tough – but to take the ball cleanly against two of them is exceptional.

That is what Tillous-Borde does though, brilliant.

Michalak then runs through a couple of tackles, only to present the ball badly and gift the ball back to Ireland.

But, for the second time today, the French skipper Dusautoir is the first man in, and wins the penalty from Cian Healy. Superb play.

From almost exactly the same place as before, Spedding will kick again.

It’s been all France, but when they miss their chances, Johnny Sexton simply does not. Through it goes, a quick pump of the fist, and Ireland lead. 

Spedding, from halfway, has the distance – and so nearly the accuracy. The ball strikes the inside of the post, but won’t go through. 

Ireland clear to touch, France lose their line-out, and it’s an attacking opportunity for the men in green for the first time. 

Sexton chips and chases, and though it doesn’t go to hand, Ben Arous knocks on, Bastareaud picks up from in front, and it’s an Ireland penalty…

To quote Ron Burgundy in ‘Anchorman’, that escalated quickly! A ferocious contest thus far. No quarter being given in these early exchanges.

O’Brien, O’Connell and O’Mahony have been superb so far but France look threatening in the outside channels.

Ireland get their first line-out after some careless French hands, and they secure the ball, but soon after they go high and Dulin takes very well.

Bastareaud takes the ball up, tries to offload, and forces an Irish knock on – and from the scrum, it’s a penalty, as Ireland collapse. 

Spedding takes the tee now, straighter, but much further out than the one Michalak missed.

Already we’ve seen some chunky tackles – and Pascal Pape is the first – you’d think of many – to receive treatment.

Michalak missed his kick, not getting a good contact, so we stay at 0-0, but it’s been all France in territory and possession so far. 

Ireland’s full-back Rob Kearney runs the ball back from a high kick

France’s lock Pascal Pape reacts following a clash which hurt his ribs

France kick their penalty towards the Irish 22, and take the line-out, but it’s wrapped up by the Irish defence. First O’Connell, then O’Mahony and Toner stop it getting out. Good start for the line-out defence, Ireland scrum.

Really solid scrum, no movement forward but a very good attacking platform. Shifted wide to Earls, but at the breakdown Toner is pinged after good work by Dusautoir.

A kickable penalty for France – quite wide, but possible. And Michalak calls for the tee…

We’re in for a war here. Both teams looked positively pumped up after two rousing renditions of the anthems.

‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ reverberating around this echo chamber. It’s been a seismic week in Irish sport; this could be the perfect finale…

And what a start from Peter O’Mahony. The Munster flanker puts in a huge hit on Guirado alongside Jamie Heaslip. He then follows up by man-handling Sebastian Tillous-Borde at the next ruck. ​

Nigel Owens gives a sharp blast of the whistle and Michalak kicks it high into the Cardiff sky. Well taken by Rob Kearney, and Ireland clear.

Scott Spedding carries it back – already both 15s involved – but after France get moving a couple of phases, Guirado knocks on, and Ireland have possession. 

Sexton twice goes inside to a runner, but, after 10 phases of Irish ball, they get pinged. Penalty France inside their own half. 

I know Matt Lawton isn’t a fan, but the closed roof certainly means the noise reverberates around this giant stadium. 

The majority in here are wearing green, and my did they make themselves heard. Can their countrymen on the pitch match them once the whistle goes?

There has been a lot of chat about the best anthems at this World Cup. Italy is good fun. We can all agree, I’m sure, that America’s is the worst. 

Well I don’t think we’ll get a better combination than these two – perhaps if either of these nations meets the Springboks, that’s another belter.

La Marseillaise first, with it’s dainty tune, rousing chorus and bloodcurdling lyrics. Rousing.

And now, Ireland’s call – there is no better sound in rugby. The pride in all 30 faces is staggering. This means so much. 

Paul O’Connell leads his men from one end of the tunnel area. Theirry Dusautoir is at the front of his team coming from the other.

A bit of a hard stare from the French skipper, while the big Ireland No 5 looks very relaxed. 

Out they trot, onto the pitch. It’s almost time.

Irish team was just ready out on the PA system here in the stadium. The biggest roar went up for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. Says it all really.

The Kiwi has been a revelation since he came on board two years ago. Six months of preparation has gone into today’s match.

Today, could be the day Schmidt confirms his status as the best coach in the tournament.

10 minutes to kick-off…

Joe Schmidt watches over his team as they warm up on the pitch in Cardiff

I remain baffled by the decision to shut the roof here in Cardiff.

It’s dry and warm, as it was for the last game I attended here; Wales vs Uruguay.

Winning today certainly hands the victors an easier prospect in the quarter-finals – but how much easier? That’s a subject for debate.

Argentina pushed New Zealand all the way in their opening game of the tournament, and have looked stylish and exciting in picking up maximum points from their other three games. 

Before the tournament they were the quarter-final team you wanted to face. Now? Not so much. 

So even if you win today, you don’t want to pick up injuries or suspensions, because any team in the world is going to need to be at full strength to beat the Pumas.

Beyond them it’s Scotland or Australia in the semi-finals – the main benefit of which is that neither of those are the All Blacks!

PJ van Lill dives over to score a try for an exciting Argentina side who have lit up the tournament

Right, I suppose it’s time to look at what lies ahead after today – what each side is hoping to avoid. The All Blacks.

For the losers today, that is what is on the menu. Lose today and you face the World’s best team in the quarter final. That is why you just have to win.

If you were to beat them, however, the route to the final gets a little easier. A Springboks side who have improved, but did lose to Japan, or a much-depleted Wales would be the semi-final opponents, followed by a final against, well, whoever is left. 

Still, beating the All Blacks. Not easy. 

Just under 20 minutes until kick off, so a chance to have a look at the two teams. Lots of talent on show hear – particularly in the full-back position, where Scott Spedding vs Rob Kearney could be a belter of a battle!

France: Spedding; Nakaitaci, Bastareaud, Fofana, Dulin; Michalak, Tillous-Borde; Ben Arous, Guirado, Slimani; Pape, Maestri; Dusautoir (c), Couly, Picamoles

Ireland: R Kearney; Bowe, Earls, Henshaw, D Kearney; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross; Toner, O’Connell (c); O’Mahony, O’Brien, Heaslip


Atmosphere is building nicely inside the Millennium Stadium. The Irish have travelled here in their droves but there are plenty of French fans on the ground as well.

A deafening roar of ‘Allez Les Bleus’ rang out around the stadium about five minutes ago but that was nothing compared to the noise that greeted Paul O’Connell and his team-mates as they went for a lap around their section of the pitch before their warm-up.

What a match we have in store here.. 

There has been some brilliant fancy dress at this World Cup so far, and from what I’ve seen so far, France are edging Ireland today.

Have a look at these oddly attired gentlemen…

French rugby fans hold baguettes…

…dress as soldiers…

… and one has even come as a very French shark!

So, that’s France, what about Ireland? Well it’s not all that dissimilar a story. Despite thrashing Canada they weren’t brilliant, and they were functional rather exciting in wins over Romania and Italy.

It’s been enough, so far. But they’ll really be hoping to kick-start their World Cup with a more fluent performance against top quality opposition. 

Obviously a lot of the attention on this game will be related to who the winners, and losers, play next. 

But before we look at the future, how about a reminder of the recent past, with a recap of how each of these sides have performed so far – starting with France.

The buzzword really for the French so far is unconvincing. They have been comfortable enough, without ever really looking brilliant.

The win over Italy in the first game more or less secured a quarter-final place early on, and French inconsistency, always an issue, has not been helped by selection – which has seen 13, 13 and 12 changes between matches.

Bonus points against Romania and Canada have made things look comfortable, but the French are yet to really perform at their best just yet.

These fans will be hoping to see the best of France when they face Ireland in Cardiff

If you want to win the World Cup, you’re going to have to beat the best teams at some point.

But you also want that point to be as late as possible. Because as much as it is likely that the eventual winners will either be, or have beaten the All Blacks at some point, you don’t want to face them in the quarter-finals.

And that is what is at stake today.

New Zealand, the team everyone wants to avoid, perform the haka



Both France and Ireland are already through to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, but the two sides know this is far from a dead rubber as they compete for top spot in Pool D.

The winners will avoid world champions and favourites New Zealand in the quarter final, with their first chance of meeting the All Blacks becoming a potential final.

Victory in Cardiff would instead see one of these sides face the promising, but altogether less intimidating Argentina in the last eight. 

Follow all the action as it happens with Sportsmail’s live coverage.

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