IRELAND V FRANCE PREVIEW

Well, Ireland have a very tough game on Saturday, when they travel to Paris to play France (at 9 pm), who are still in the running for the Grand Slam, having beaten Italy in their first game last weekend.  

 

We actually have a very poor record in Paris, having only won twice in the last 40 years (which means 2 in 20 matches played)! In 1972, we won a game played in Stade Colombes (which my Mum was at, with my aunt Paula), then the games were moved to Parc de Princes (1974-1998), where we never won.

 

Since 1998, we’ve only won one game in Stade Francais (2000, where O’Driscoll scored 3 tries). A very poor record, not helped by the fact that we lost to France 3 times last Year!

 

There’s one change from the team that lost to Wales, with Keith Earls returning to the line-up, meaning Fergus McFadden moves to the bench, with David Kearney left out of the 22 entirely. Kidney’s been quite conservative in his selection.

 

I would have preferred to see McFadden and Earls as the centre duo. I think they could offer some excitement (they’ll be the centres soon enough, with both D’Arcy and O’Driscoll nearing retirement age). I think O’Gara should come in much sooner to the game as well, no later than 15 minutes before the end.

 

Ireland really need to be much better. The French are more of a threat than Wales, and France will be a lot more motivated than they were against Italy. Ireland had a tough time against the Welsh back-row, and the French back-row are better.

 

Also, Rougerie at centre, and the wingers are a real threat. This was another weak link in the Irish side against the Wales, where Roberts, Davies and North had the run of the field. The back-line, Trimble and Bowe especially, need to be at their best.

 

We have to play at our best, for the full 80 minutes if we are to have any realistic chance of beating France. Each poor performance by Ireland, takes away from the great victory against Australia. We need to show that that wasn’t a one-off.

 

The Grand Slam dream may be over, but we still have a chance to win the 6 Nations title. We just need to find that great 2009 Grand Slam form, which has been sorely lacking since then.

 

We’ve shown we can beat teams when we’re at our best. We just need to be at our best more often! (otherwise, we’ll be lucky to keep the score respectable).

 

There’s actually a risk that the match might be called off, due to the poor weather conditions in France. Playing at 9 o’clock at night doesn’t help matters, apparently it’s going to be -8 while the match is been played.

 

In the 6 Nations games at the weekend; Scotland travel to Cardiff to face Wales (on Sunday, at around 3). Wales will be buoyed by the return of their great prop, Gethin Jenkins.

 

Scotland have dropped Dan Parkes, who was poor against England, and have brought Laidlaw at 10. Parkes has actually chosen to retire from international rugby, effective immediately.

 

Wales, like France, are also going for the Grand Slam, having beaten us. They also have a chance to win the Triple Crown. Scotland were poor against England last week, they let the game get away from them.

 

There shouldn’t be the same sort of pressure facing Wales, there’s less history there. It should be a good game. The Wales-Scotland fixture is always an exciting one.

 

England face Italy in Rome, on Saturday at 3. England were lucky to beat Scotland, but they did win, and still have a chance to win all the trophies going.

 

I’d love to see Italy claim the scalp of England (they did in 2007). There are certainly weaknesses in the English team. But Italy need to really play out of their skins, or England may very well run roughshod over them.

 

It’s possible that France, Wales and England will remain undefeated at the end of the weekend, which will keep the tournament exciting, at least. I’d still like to see Ireland triumphing, and Italy embarrass the English.     

 

 

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