France are 'building something'
SIX NATIONS REACTION: France coach Guy Noves is confident that the future remains bright, despite seeing hopes of the Six Nations title fade with a 9-19 loss away to Ireland.
Recent Tests have seen France lose to the three top-ranked teams - New Zealand, Australia and England - by a combined margin of just 10 points.
Although Saturday's match was another missed chance to land a "big fish" in the words of their assistant coach Yannick Bru, there is no doubt France are making headway under Noves.
The 63-year-old ended his glittering spell in charge of Toulouse when he succeeded the much-criticised Philippe Saint-Andre as boss of the national side following the 2015 World Cup.
France, who came into the match on the back of a 22-16 win over a revitalised Scotland, looked in control for the opening 25 minutes of Saturday's match in Dublin. But a disallowed try took the wind out of their sails and their 6-0 lead had gone by half-time, with Ireland largely dominating from then on.
"It is difficult to speak of progress when one has lost. I don't have the impression we are progressing but we are building something that is for sure. This match will give us clues as to how to build further in the future.
"We will analyse all the situations where we had the ball and weren't able to make it count. It is a pity the first occasion we did break through their defence ended up with the try being disallowed because of a minuscule knock-on by Gael Fickou.
"I think we have stagnated but we have not taken a step back. We are finding out by playing the high-quality sides, like Ireland, how far we have to go," Noves said.
Noves refused to blame his pairing of scrumhalf Baptiste Serin and flyhalf Camille Lopez for Saturday's defeat after they were outplayed by the more experienced Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.
"It is not because of the halfbacks, it is a team affair. All the players need to make progress. The lessons learnt from today are important for giving us the direction we take for the future.
"We will continue to work and above all, we won't give up. You draw lessons both when you win and you lose," he added.
His Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt said he was convinced France were moving in the right direction after a disappointing spell under Saint-Andre.
"I think the French were as formidable as we expected them to be physical. [Scott] Spedding is incredibly dangerous, Fickou and [Remi] Lamerat - even Lopez - slipped through on a line break and that is before one starts talking about [Louis] Picamoles.
"The French are definitely building something. It is clear from what they did against the All Blacks and England and I think they will remain really difficult to beat in their final two matches," Schmidt said.