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Six Nations: Bowe wants French scalp

By Niall Crozier

Tommy Bowe is going to Paris at a good time. A try against Wales and a brace against the Italians means he is on a hat-trick.

He would be very happy to complete it by registering a touchdown at Stade de France tomorrow afternoon.

That won’t be easy; the Bastille may have gone but Stade de France has replaced it as the most formidable of fortesses. Make no mistake, trying to beat the French in Paris remains the toughest test in northern hemisphere rugby.

“It’s always nice to get onto the scoresheet, though it was disappointing that try didn’t count for much in the Welsh match,” is Bowe’s assessment of the events of February 5.

“Great” is the word he uses in describing last weekend’s five-try destruction of the Italians.

And now? Now the important thing is that he and Ireland move on.

“We’ve a big couple of weeks coming so hopefully I can get on the scoresheet again and keep things going forward,” he says.

Bowe finished last Saturday’s game at outside centre, taking over when Keith Earls was called ashore in the closing minutes. It was no big deal to him.

“My preferred position would definitely be on the wing but if I was asked to go to 13 I’d be more than happy to do that. I’ve played there quite a bit for the Ospreys,” he says.

Bowe believes the Irish backs have begun to gel — and that there is better to come. There is consistency, too, for the septet to face France is the same as that chosen for the championship opener against Wales, albeit that Fergus McFadden found himself starting when domestic circumstances forced Earls to miss the match.

All seven were retained against Italy so, with Brian O’Driscoll missing, evidently this is what Declan Kidney sees as being his best backline.

“I think the coaches have been around a long time and they’re just putting their little touches on it. I think whenever we’ve got into the opposition’s half that we always looked dangerous.

“Our problem in the past couple of weeks has been in getting out of our own half. Whenever we get down there (the opposition’s half) we get points and score tries.

“The big thing for us now is to try and spend more time in the opposition half,” he says.

Certainly Ireland will need to do that if they are to lay the hoodoo of Paris where their record is embarrassing.

Yet past results notwithstanding, Bowe is upbeat about going back following the postponement of the original France-Ireland fixture on February 11.

“Thankfully the weather forecast looks a little bit better than last time,” he smiles. “I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s a huge game for us. We played them last year and lost, but we still outscored them three tries to one.

“Our indiscipline really cost us and I think that when we go to Stade de France we can’t give them opportunities to score an easy three points.

“So it’s a case of trying to put the pressure on them, but at the same time play our own game.”

Ireland’s habit of allowing French sides to bag points early on against them in Paris has cost them dearly over the years. A good start is going to be vital if they are to repeat the heroics of 1972 and 2000, the two most recent examples of Irish success in France’s capital city.

It’s a point Bowe accepts, saying: “In the past we’ve given them huge headstarts and then we’ve had to pull it back in the end. We have to try and stay in the game as long as we can.”

Significantly, too, Bowe plays down talk of burn-out as a result of a quartet of Six Nations matches in four weeks.

“With our clubs we play week after week after week throughout most of the season so I think it’s just a case of trying to keep everybody injury free and getting on with it,” he reasons.

l France's Grand Slam hopes have been rocked by the news that full-back Maxime Medard has been ruled out for up to nine months with a serious knee ligament injury.

Philippe Saint-Andre has turned to Medard's Toulouse team-mate Clement Poitrenaud to deputise at full-back for the clash with Ireland.

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