BORDEAUX // France outmuscled an under-strength Ireland 19-12 in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match on Saturday night but the hosts were forced to bring off injured centre Maxime Mermoz in the first half.
Mermoz suffered a knee injury and was replaced in the 27th minute having been on the field for the only try when Vincent Clerc touched down for his ninth in nine games against the Irish after a good move 10 minutes earlier.
Debutant No 8 Raphael Lakafia made the decisive break for the score to please coach Marc Lievremont in his team's first outing since a disappointing Six Nations.
Dimitri Yachvili, given a run out in place of Morgan Parra at scrum-half, kicked the rest of France's points in Bordeaux with a conversion and four penalties.
"We had a good 30 minutes but that is just a third of a match — having said that, it was encouraging," Lievremont, who played down Mermoz's knee problem, told reporters.
"We were disciplined in the first half but afterwards we missed a pass or a tackle and we forgot to get our hands on the ball."
Ronan O'Gara expertly slotted over Ireland's four penalties as Declan Kidney's side played much better in the second half but they still lacked the bite of rested captain Brian O'Driscoll.
Ireland lost 10-6 to Scotland last Saturday and will want to show an improvement when they welcome France to Dublin next weekend as preparations hot up for the September 9 to October 23 World Cup in New Zealand.
"We know what we have to do in the next match. You can't play for just one half," Kidney said.
"The French know how to dominate and defend well plus they scored a try. It is a winning combination in rugby."