Ireland's nightmare run-up to the World Cup continued as they slumped to their third consecutive defeat when they were largely outplayed in a 26-22 defeat by France at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Despite a flying start that saw Ireland lead 8-0 inside ten minutes, France fought back to register a telling defeat - and make it two wins from two in their warm-up matches with the Irish who have a last chance to boost morale when England visit next weekend before the global showpiece in New Zealand next month.
France coach Marc Lievremont's faith in 13 changes to the side which topped Ireland 19-12 in Bordeaux last weekend was rewarded with an ever better performance against an Irish side which started and finished strong, but crucially sat back and bungled the middle quarters.
Cian Healy added a try to Jonathan Sexton's early penalty to give the hosts the perfect start but a late blitz from the visitors in the first half proved the turning point.
France scored 26 unanswered points from the 25th to 49th minutes to lead 26-8, before they conceded two late converted tries after Ireland cleared their bench.
Replacement flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc's try early in the second half - after he intercepted a careless wild pass by Tomas O'Leary - extended a lead the visitors would not relinquish and late tries from Sexton and O'Brien were nothing more than a consolation.
French centre Aurelien Rougerie, playing his first Test since breaking his ankle in May, shaded Ireland opposite and captain Brian O'Driscoll and set up a try for fullback Cedric Heymans, while scrumhalf Morgan Parra put pressure on incumbent Dimitri Yachvili with a solid performance behind the scrum and kicking tee.
Ireland will be concerned by more than just the scoreline however, with Healy and full back Felix Jones both having departed the field injured.
Declan Kidney had expected more from this game, especially as he fielded what was close to his strongest possible XV with winger Tommy Bowe still absent through injury, and David Wallace a late withdrawal due to a hamstring injury.
There were ten changes to the side that lost 19-12 in Bordeaux last weekend, with skipper O'Driscoll and midfield partner Gordon D'Arcy starting in midfield, while Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip also made their first starts this season.
Shane Jennings filled in for Wallace in the loose trio, while Jones made his first start for Ireland at fullback.
Parra's three penalties, after earlier foregoing shots at goal to run at the Irish, helped France overcome scoring only two tries to Ireland's three.
Tries: Healy, Sexton, O'Brien
Cons: O'Gara 2
Tries: Heymans, Trinh-Duc
Cons: Parra 2
Pens: Parra 3
Ireland: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Jerry Flannery, 17 Tom Court, 18 Mike McCarthy, 19 Stephen Ferris, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Luke Fitzgerald.
France: 15 Cedric Heymans, 14 Maxime Medard, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 David Skrela, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Julien Bonnaire, 7 Louis Picamoles, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Lionel Nallet (captain), 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Raphael Lakafia, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Francois Trinh-Duc, 22 Vincent Clerc.
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