Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

We know we can triumph in Paris: O’Connell

Paul O'Connell is convinced Ireland's status as Grand Slam champions will finally enable him to realise one of his greatest ambitions.

The Irish collide with tournament favourites France tomorrow in a match that could ultimately decide the destination of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations title.

History is heavily weighted against Ireland, who have prevailed in Paris on just two occasions since 1952 with the most recent win claimed a decade ago now.

O'Connell had to wait until last year's 30-21 triumph at Croke Park in the opening match of the championship for his first taste of glory against France in eight attempts.

Ireland prospered after toppling their perennial nemesis, marching to the Grand Slam and concluding the year with a precious win against world champions South Africa.

But while previous Irish teams have suffered in Paris, O'Connell believes the cloak of success will embolden the latest assault on the Stade de France.

“The history of the fixture gives us motivation,” said the Munster lock and Lions captain.

“If we beat France away from home it will be an incredible feeling and a good box ticked.

“It would be a highlight in my career. In my earlier years I looked at guys like (former Ireland and Munster prop) Peter Clohessy having very, very tough times over there.

“Irish teams sometimes went to Paris with high hopes, sometimes not, but always came off second best.

“But it's got to the stage now where we believe we can go over there and win. Now we need to actually do it.

“We talk about us being a more confident team than any other Irish side.

“We've always taken talented teams to Paris but now we're going there with a Grand Slam. You can't argue with that.

“We had an okay autumn, the results were good, so we're going over there in a better position than ever before.”

France have proved the scourge of Ireland's tournament aspirations throughout the last 10 years, home and away.

In an overall table heading into this year's 6 Nations, Ireland share first place with their rivals with 36 victories in 50 matches yet have one solitary title compared to France's four.

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