Six Nations

France can beat the 'best'

2014-03-14 14:56
Pascal Pape (AFP)

Paris - France can round off their Six Nations campaign with victory over 'the best team' in the tournament, Ireland, at the Stade de France on Saturday, said their captain Pascal Pape on Friday.

The 33-year-old lock, who will win his 54th cap against the Irish, has, like his team-mates and coaching staff, been slammed by the media and former players despite three wins in their four matches this season, more than they achieved in the whole of last year in 11 Tests.

However, Pape -- who replaced the injured Thierry Dusautoir as captain for the tournament -- said they could put everything right with a superb performance against an Irish side that heads both them and England by virtue of a superior points difference.

While the French could still win the title, it would require them to thump the Irish and for pointless Italy to pull off a shock at home to England, who also have a superior points difference to France.

Pape, an integral member of the France side that defied expectations and reached the 2011 World Cup final and only lost 8-7 to hosts New Zealand, was keener to focus on the immediate task of beating the Irish, with whom they have drawn in the past two Six Nations.

"Ireland are a very nice side, very strong up front, with a good defence and in the tackle," said Pape, who plays for Parisian side Stade Francais.

"They are the best team... we are going to try and subdue them and put in a great performance.

"It is a terrific challenge ahead of us: each one of us will have an experienced player opposing us, of the highest quality.

"They will be a redoubtable adversary but we have confidence in ourselves.

"We know what we are capable of. We must be relaxed and not be inhibited, play on the front foot whether it be in defence or attack.

"We must not be fearful of them because we have everything to win. One doesn't get many matches of this importance in one's career, with so much at stake. We do not want to end up regretting anything tomorrow evening."

Pape, who made his debut in 2004 while with Bourgoin but admitted he felt he only really came of age at Test level after the 2011 World Cup, said victory would be of enormous importance to France with just over a year to go to the World Cup.

"We all want to produce something memorable," he said.

"To end the tournament with a victory is our target. As for the criticism, well that is part and parcel of the game.

"We are more focused on our performance than what is said about us.

"There have been good things during the tournament, it is important that we remember that and don't change everything.

"All that remains is one match against Ireland, probably the in-form team, so it will be a highly-motivated France team who will play at the Stade de France in front of 80,000 supporters. They at least support us.

"We are eager to finish with a rousing performance and to make it four wins from five games."

Read more on:    ireland  |  france  |  six nations  |  pascal pape  |  rugby
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