Batley Bulldogs forward Michael Ward will be aiming to help secure Ireland a spot in the 2021 World Cup when they meet Wales in their final European Championships game in Wrexham on Saturday.
Ireland still have an outside chance of winning the European Championships but would need Scotland to pull off a shock win against France tomorrow night, while the winner of Saturday’s showdown against Wales will book a place in the World Cup.
Scotland, who have suffered defeats to Wales and Ireland, will face a further qualification round next year along with the side who finish third in the group.
France became the ninth nation to qualify for the World Cup, and need a point at home to Scotland tomorrow, to claim their first European Championship title since 2011, after overcoming resistant Ireland 24-10 at the Morton Stadium last weekend.
The significant damage was done in the first half when, with the strong Santry wind behind them, France posted 18 points without reply.
With the elements in their favour in the second period, the Wolfhounds turned it into a contest when impressive Ethan Ryan went over, but Alrix da Costa’s second touchdown, darting over from acting half back, settled the contest and sparked celebrations that France would be competing in the World Cup in three years’ time.
One time Dewsbury Rams player Mickael Goudemand went close for France early on before da Costa burrowed his way over from close range, with Tony Gigot converting.
Romain Navarette set up another France attack, with Gigot’s long pass on the last tackle sending Paul Marcon over out wide but Gigot was wide with his conversion attempt.
Gigot landed a penalty soon after as France led 12-0 after 17 minutes.
Ireland looked to have survived after seven minutes of intense pressure but their superb defensive effort was undone when Fages broke clear with a lovely step and judged his kick perfectly for Bastien Ader to gather and power over the top of Grix. Gigot adding the extras.
Ryan looked like he might have had some joy from a Liam Finn cross kick just before the break, but Escare forced a turnover.
At the start of the second half, on the back of another big run from George King, Finn’s kick saw Ryan leap and twist over in the corner but Finn was wide with the goal attempt.
Ireland moved left again soon after but Grix couldn’t gather Ryan’s inside pass, while Higginson’s kick down the line went into touch ahead of Ryan’s sprint.
Finn made 60 metres with a wind assisted penalty but Ader covered the danger.
Gigot darted out of acting half-back and won a penalty 30 metres out which saw Curran go close before da Costa jinked over for a crucial try.
With eight minutes left, Ireland fashioned a potential lifeline, as Dec O’Donnell released Finn who found Greg McNally before Grix kicked for the line and the chasing McNally gathered to score. Finn converted to reduce the gap to 14 points.
Ireland were unable to add further points and now face a showdown with Wales for the second World Cup spot.