Kidney up for France yardstick
Declan Kidney is delighted that Ireland will test themselves against one of the World Cup's heavyweights when they face France on Saturday.
The Irish head to Bordeaux, the base camp for the squad's disastrous tournament four years ago, for the first of two matches against Marc Lievremont's side. The punishing build-up campaign concludes against England on August 27.
"We've been concentrating 99% on ourselves going into this game, but we know France will be a powerhouse at the World Cup," he said. "It's because of that that they will be a good test for us. It will be interesting to see how we get on."
Rather than be daunted by such a challenging run of fixtures, Kidney instead welcomes the opportunity to gauge the progress of his side following their 10-6 defeat by Scotland last weekend.
He added: "In France they could pick three or four teams of similar quality. That's the strength of French rugby. Playing a French team in the south of France is as tough as it comes.
"It can make a difference playing down there - it will be lively but we must look forward to the noise. When you're younger you can be over-awed by it, but it's important not to loose your voice and get on with your job."
Ireland have made nine changes, one positional, to the side mauled 10-6 by Scotland.
Ronan O'Gara is picked at fly-half, Rob Kearney is given another run out at full-back and Sean O'Brien starts at openside. The first choice front row of Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross has been selected en masse, while Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip feature on the bench.
Kidney insists Ireland are still smarting from their loss at Murrayfield and identifies victory as they key objective in each of the warm-up games.
"Every single time winning is the most important thing," he said. "We're still disappointed about last weekend and we'll do our level best to win this weekend because otherwise you're dishonouring the jersey."