Tyrone Howe: Ireland must get off to a flyer in Paris
All the pre-match comments emanating from the Ireland camp seem to revolve around one thing — a positive start against France is crucial.
It is the clear and obvious point to make if you consider what has gone before.
Ireland’s opening 40 minutes against Italy were largely forgettable and in their opening match the players had to survive a Welsh onslaught in the same period.
Declan Kidney’s men cannot afford to switch off for 10 minutes, never mind longer.
In Paris, if you get ruffled or your concentration goes, it is so easy to find yourself chasing shadows, 20 points down and facing an uphill struggle akin to scaling Mont Blanc.
Of course, there is no doubt that Irish confidence is enhanced.
Taking your chances and scoring tries makes the training week that much easier. It was great to see Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble and Tom Court at the forefront, while Stephen Ferris’ selfless workrate sets him apart from most other international players — as his setting up of a try for Bowe showed.
However, the record of only one victory in Paris since 1972 suggests that something exceptional is required on Sunday.
The last year has shown that Ireland only seem to produce this level of performance under the most extreme circumstances, when it matters most or when backs are absolutely to the wall.
The victory against England last season was required to salvage the tournament, while the wins over Australia and Italy in the World Cup resulted from so many senior players feeling the pressure of their last RWC and being in a familiar Cup scenario.
My concern is that having lost to Wales, the Grand Slam, Triple Crown and Six Nations Championship are all effectively gone.
Where is the absolute pressure for a result?
In which case, the key test will be how much it really matters to the players?
Yes, Ireland have to make a far better start to the game, but after their own below-par display against Scotland, so too do France. Prediction? Fireworks in Paris.