Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Ireland can beat the French at their own game: Kidney

Declan Kidney is relying on his team being able to play the French at their own game by thinking on their feet, working off the cuff and adapting to circumstances as they unfold.

Tomorrow Ireland’s ability to show the traits and deliver some of what we tend to associate with France will be central to last term’s Grand Slam winners’ success or lack thereof.

Noted for his meticulous planning and detailed preparation, on this occasion Kidney insists it is crucial his team be liberated to play heads-up rugby against opposition famed for being dangerously unpredictable.

He and his coaching lieutenants have devised a gameplan which they hope will enable Ireland to claim their first victory in Paris since 2000.

“We have a broad plan, but the boys will also have to think on their feet. You can try and second guess France but that's dangerous,” he warned.

“France's set-piece is strong, so is their continuity and off-load game. They bring the unexpected.

“That gets them playing free-flowing rugby and, when they play like that, they'll make hay against anybody.

“They played like that against New Zealand last summer and South Africa in the autumn and they came out on top both times.”

Typically guarded and giving nothing away he added: “We'll try and match their forwards and take a look at what their backs present in defence.

“We'll just have to attack what we see in front of us. That's the way Irish teams need to play.

“We need to be smart; if we play the same way every time, teams will cut us down.

“We have a style that we play but it allows players to exploit gaps.”

And hinting at how this bold plan may present itself Kidney admitted: “You can't defend the whole pitch so we'll have to pick out where France are vulnerable.”

The injury-enforced return to the Test arena of old foe Vincent Clerc will concern Ireland somewhat. The Toulouse winger has an awesome record against the Irish, having scored seven tries in five appearances. His haul includes a hat-trick at the Stade de France two years ago.

The year before that, at Croke Park, with a minute to go he had crossed for a try that effectively denied Ireland the Grand Slam.

Clerc replaces the injured Benjamin Fall on the right wing, one of two enforced changes to the side that beat Scotland 18-9 on Sunday at Murrayfield.

In view of French coach Marc Lievremont’s reputation for tinkering and tampering, his deployment of minimal changes to his line-up on this occasion underlines the gravity France have attached to this match.

Kidney points to the strength of Les Bleus and insists that such is their quality that they could have picked a number of players and still remained competitive.

“France have such an array of players. I've seen some of the stuff that has been written about Lievremont but, when you have that many players, you can come up with any team,” he said.

“They have so much strength in depth and that's why they have the record they do.”

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