Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Kidney plays down expectation of French demolition

Coach Declan Kidney prepares the Irish stars for the onslaught from France at Croke Park

Declan Kidney has sought to dampen the growing optimism surrounding Ireland's opener by claiming there is never a good time to face France.

The Irish find themselves in the rare position of starting as favourites against Les Bleus, a team they have not beaten for six years.

The belief they can capture their first title since 1985 has snowballed in the build-up to the Six Nations and victory at Croke Park today would send confidence levels soaring.

A typically leftfield team selection by France coach Marc Lievremont has improved their hopes of generating some crucial early momentum and expectations have risen accordingly.

But Kidney, overseeing his first Six Nations campaign, strikes a more cautious note against Ireland's championship nemesis.

"You have to look forward to taking on France like all these big nations. You just want to challenge yourself against the best," he said. "On whether it's the ideal time to play France, I don't think there is ever an ideal time to play them. They are strong the whole way through.

"They have stated their ambition of coming to Dublin and scoring tries and that's about as much as I need to know.

"We can either be fearful or look forward to it. I believe in the latter because you have to look forward to playing them.

"I believe the more often you play these sides then the better it allows you to become because you learn so much about yourself."

If the fortunes of the nations' representatives in the Heineken Cup are anything to go by, France arrive in Dublin as deserving underdogs. Munster and Leinster won their pools while only Toulouse are still flying the flag for the Top 14, having finished as one of the two best runners-up.

Kidney salutes the success of Ireland's provinces in Europe and implores the same players to reproduce those heroics when they pull on their green jerseys.

"I would not read too much into the way the French teams have performed in the Heineken Cup," he said. "They have a big number of players to draw on while we have a smaller pool, but we have been fronting up exceptionally well in the Heineken Cup.

"Now we are asking the same pool of players to do it on a national front.

"And I can't speak highly enough about how they have gone about their job."

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