Ireland coach Declan Kidney admits to being “excited” at the prospect of squaring up to France in Bordeaux tomorrow night.
BY niall crozier
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The French team normally plays in Paris, not here, and the late kick-off — 8.45pm French time — means those who make their way in anticipation to Chaban-Delmas will have had a vin ou deux. Atmosphere a-plenty guaranteed.
“I think playing France at the best of times is always one of the ones you look forward to. Playing them in the south of France probably makes it just that little bit more special because you know that at quarter to nine at night there’ll be a bit of ole-ole and the atmosphere will be fantastic.
“It’ll be a night in its own right,” is Kidney’s forecast.
Ireland’s record in France makes grim reading; they last won a Test match against the French on their own soil 10 years ago. And four years ago Chaban-Delmas is where they struggled at the outset of their ill-fated 2007 World Cup bid. The stadium houses ghosts the Irish are keen to exorcise.
The side they have named is better — much better — than the one which lost 10-6 to Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday. Kidney hopes — expects — that to be reflected in the performance.
Keith Earls, who is named in the centre outside Paddy Wallace, is one of those to whom the coach is looking. Not just this weekend, but beyond it. Post-Brian O’Driscoll, for example.
“I’m not going to put the hex on him by what way he’s going, but obviously Brian is going to play for another two years and we have to have some plans for down the future.”
“I suppose the overall plan is that we have as many eventualities as possible covered off before we get on the plane (for New
Zealand),” Kidney said. “You’re never going to cover off all of them, but if we get whatever — 70% or 80% of the way there — then should Brian not make a match we had Fergus (McFadden) last week, we have Keith this week, so we have different combinations built up like that.”
Lauding the efforts of Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Luke Fitzgerald at Murrayfield, Kidney said: “I thought the back three did well last week. I thought that when the ball was kicked down to them they came back with a little bit of purpose.
“Fergus added to that; Keith can add to that. That’s such a big part of the game right now, too.
“To be honest there’s a whole heap of things that I’m trying to get out of this (match) but I don’t want to be putting the hex on any one of them.
“We need to up our performance from last week. We know that we need to hang onto the ball a little bit longer.
“We need to be probably not as excited in trying things as we were last week and just sometimes being a little more patient in holding onto it.”