Six Nations

Winning is infectious for Ireland captain Best

2018-02-02 16:13
Rory Best (Gallo Images)

Paris - Captain Rory Best has urged his Ireland team not to lose the winning habit when they take on France in their Six Nations opener in Paris on Saturday.

The Irish are on a seven-match winning run but have had a dreadful record in Paris, winning there only twice since the early 1970s.

So although Best's team are the tournament favourites - being the only northern hemisphere team to have beaten all four southern hemisphere sides in the last 15 months - the captain is taking nothing for granted.

"The favourites tag isn't something we talk about," he said at Friday's pre-match press conference.

"We give the opposition the respect they deserve, we treat each opposition as they come and we look hard and make sure we study them.

"Our record here isn't very good over some 40 years and that's because it's a tough place to come."

But with Ireland's provinces in fine form, particularly in European competition where three of the four won their pools, Best wants his team-mates to take that winning mentality onto the international stage.

"Our standards are very high and we have players in there, especially this season, who are used to winning and aren't very comfortable with losing," added the Ulster hooker.

"That can be infectious and that is something that we need to get internationally, and we've had it this season and we need to keep it."

Much has been made of France coach Jacques Brunel picking uncapped teenage flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert to face Ireland but the visitors' New Zealander coach Joe Schmidt has also selected three players making their Six Nations debuts.

New Zealand-born centre Bundee Aki, lock James Ryan and wing Jacob Stockdale have just 10 caps between them and none in the sport's oldest tournament.

Best is mindful that they understand what awaits them on Saturday.

"At this stage they're probably a little bit unaware of the magnitude of the game. When you come to the Stade de France with 80 000 people, the atmosphere and the Six Nations - and the microscope you're under in the Six Nations - it's probably going to be a bit of a surprise for them," said the veteran front-row forward.

"But at the same time, these are guys who are used to playing in big (club) games, they've handled big games before.

"Sometimes, with not knowing what's coming, it's a good thing. There's nothing left that you fear."

Kick-off is at 18:45 SA time.

Teams:

France

15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot

Substitutes: 16 Adrien Pelissie, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Marco Tauleigne, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Benjamin Fall

Ireland

15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale; 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O'Mahony; 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson; 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (capt), 1 Cian Healy

Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 John Ryan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Fergus McFadden

Read more on:    ireland  |  six nations  |  rory best  |  rugby
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Fixtures
Friday, 23 February 2018
France v Italy, Stade Velodrome 22:00
Saturday, 24 February 2018
Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium 16:15
Scotland v England, Murrayfield 18:45
Saturday, 10 March 2018
Ireland v Scotland, Aviva Stadium 16:15
France v England, Stade de France 18:45
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