Ireland do not have good memories of their 2007 World Cup matches in Bordeaux, where they were singularly unimpressive in beating Namibia and Georgia.
Coach Declan Kidney refuses to be put off by that however.
“The lads won here four years ago; you mustn’t forget that,” he said. “There might have been a bit of criticism after that but if there’s a bit of criticism of us tomorrow night and we win, I’d settle for that.”
He knows all about Ireland’s atrocious record in matches against the French in France. That, he believes, simply comes down to the numbers playing the game in the two countries.
“They have 14 professional teams, we have four. They go into Division 1 and then the level below that is semi-professional, too. It can be just the sheer weight of numbers.
“We’ve punched probably above our weight in Heineken Cups and stuff like that but they (the French) have just had that natural strength of numbers.
“If they lose somebody they have a ready replacement and that’s what we have been trying to build towards in the last year or two,” Kidney said.
Meanwhile, given the temperature in Bordeaux, it is somewhat ironic that Ireland captain Leo Cullen has warned his team-mates of the danger of freezing in the white-heat of battle tonight.
The road signs from the airport serve as reminders that this is a major French rugby region —Toulouse, Agen and Pau are all within easy striking distance.
All 34,000 tickets for tonight’s showdown were sold long ago so the atmosphere promises to be intense. And partisan, particularly with the late kick-off – 8.45 pm local time.
Although Cullen’s ‘don’t freeze’
warning is figurative, he knows the risk of allowing France to get up a head of steam is very real.
“They are obviously going to come pretty aggressively at scrum time and we need to stand up in that area,” Cullen stressed.
“I’m sure they’re going to be pretty ferocious when they come out. They are playing at home; it’s not a ground they play in very often but Bordeaux is a real rugby town.
“No doubt they’ll be pretty passionate about playing there so we’ll need to be up for that assault early on,” he warned.
“If we stand off them it will be a pretty long day at the office so it’s important that we go into the thick of battle early on.
“We can’t sit back. They are going to be confrontational – that is how they play.
“They have had a very short build-up. They announced their World Cup squad a few weeks ago so they’re all pretty much gunning to be in a position for the World Cup.
“That’s where they’re at, it seems, so we need to be on our game straight away.”
Meanwhile Kidney is hoping that the players who missed out against Scotland last Saturday will be sufficiently fired up by their omission on that occasion to make a few telling points tonight. Eight changes and one positional switch means there are plenty of cases to be made – and perhaps one or two to be lost. Time will tell.
“I know how disappointed the guys who didn’t get a go last week were,” Kidney said. “So this time it’s their chance.”