Irish out for revenge

2011-02-12 07:58

Dublin - Ireland had their hopes of retaining their Six Nations Grand Slam dashed by France last year, but they can inflict the same agony on the French here on Sunday, a year to the day of that painful defeat.

The Irish, though, will have to step up several gears from their opening 13-11 victory over Italy last weekend if they are to even have a hope of achieving that.

The French by contrast arrive at Lansdowne Road having shed some of the pain of their 59-16 thrashing by Australia last November with an exciting, at times sparkling, 34-21 victory over a vastly-improved Scotland side.

Certainly Ireland captain and centre Brian O'Driscoll, whose try helped to save Irish blushes against the Italians, acknowledges that if the hosts fail to start brightly then they will be in for a torrid time.

"We can't expect a slow start and then to get going," said the 32-year-old.

"If we start slowly this weekend, we'll get torn apart. Sometimes you need to play with a fear factor which gets you out of the blocks nice and early."

O'Driscoll, who will skipper the side for the 73rd time and is three shy of the 50-win mark, will be looking to exploit his longstanding partnership in the centres with Gordon D'Arcy against Damien Traille and Aurelien Rougerie.

The French pairing, the 19th under coach Marc Lievremont since he took over in 2008, are experienced campaigners but have just 35 minutes playing time together in those pivotal positions with Traille having played at fly-half and fullback of late for the French and Rougerie is a converted winger.

Lievremont, who opted to leave veteran Yannick Jauzion on the bench, believes that he has got the perfect mix in the backs having replaced Traille at fullback with the unpredictable Clement Poitrenaud.

"Once again I've had to adapt," said Lievremont. "If Maxime Mermoz hadn't been injured, I might have picked the same team.

"I think Damien is great at the moment, much better than he was, physically and mentally, in November.

"At inside centre, he gives me an option as a second outside-half by potentially taking the pressure off Francois Trinh-Duc with his kicking game. He's also an excellent passer of the ball.

"We did talk about bringing Jauzion in, but we chose this option of two athletic centres and a more dynamic trio (Poitrenaud and wings Yoann Huget and Maxime Medard)," added the 42-year-old.

Lievremont and his coaching staff have largely dismissed the woeful Irish display against the Italians as a shaking away of the cobwebs, and scrum handler Didier Retiere for one is expecting a tough no-holds barred contest.

"The Irish have the ability to change the pace of a game; the Scots by contrast established a rhythm and tried to maintain it throughout," he told AFP.

"The Irish also showed great heart in beating the Italians. This is going to be a very difficult match, it will be decided in the combativity of each side and the one on ones as to who comes out the strongest.

"It is the type of match that should suit us but at the same time we must be on our guard in respect of discipline and concentration."

Ireland coach Declan Kidney just called on his players to draw on their reserves of courage and not to be intimidated.

"France are a very strong team, one of the best in world, with a strong all-round game," Kidney said.

"But we just need to concentrate on ourselves, and have the courage to go out and play.

"The way the laws are now, if you stand off and attempt damage limitation you are going to get opened up. You need courage to play, and I hope we continue to do it."