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Six Nations: Kearney says fast start in Paris is essential

By Duncan Bech

Ireland full-back Rob Kearney has urged his team-mates to abandon any idea that only an extraordinary performance will be enough to topple France on Sunday.

Kearney says fast start in Paris is essential Ireland cannot afford to concede early advantage

Good place: Rob Kearney says Ireland will travel with confidence after their win over Italy IRELAND full-back Rob Kearney has urged his team-mates to abandon any idea that only an extraordinary performance will be enough to topple France on Sunday.

The Irish travel to Paris for their rescheduled RBS 6 Nations showdown at the Stade de France with a renewed sense of purpose following their victory over Italy.

Key to their hopes of enhancing their title aspirations is managing the anxiety induced by their dismal record in the French capital of just one win since 1972.

Kearney insists it is critical they do not become overwhelmed by the burden of past failures, instead adopting a more routine approach.

“I don't think we need to do something special. That's where we fall down sometimes when we play in France,” he said.

“We look at our record and it doesn't fill us with confidence, so maybe we feel as though we have to try something different there.

“Where we have always fallen down in France is that we've had a very poor start, giving up a big lead 20-30 minutes into the game.

“When you're playing a team of the calibre of France you can't do that and expect to win.

“We always put together a well-rounded second-half performance, but more often than not it's too late.

“This weekend it's hugely important that we don't give them that start.”

While the weather-enforced postponement of the original fixture on February 11 has caused significant disruption to both teams, Ireland may yet benefit.

Rather than face opposition that has been the scourge of their championship year after year on the back of a demoralising home defeat by Wales, they meet them emboldened by having put Italy to the sword 42-10.

They also head to Paris with a welcome eight-day turnaround between matches instead of the six-day break that placed strain on their last visit.

The weather should be far more hospitable with 13 degrees forecast for the afternoon kick-off rather than the minus seven that froze sections of the Stade de France pitch last time.

Kearney insists it will be an invigorated Ireland that departs Dublin this time.

“Naturally we'll travel to Paris with a bit more confidence now that we have a win under our belts,” said the Lions full-back.

“We're in a much better place than maybe we were two or three weeks ago.

“Tries win games and to score five of them against Italy is really pleasing. We're starting to get more clinical in the green zone area of play.

“We were too guilty of playing too much in our own half, but it's pleasing that when we did get into the right areas we took our opportunities.

“If we're to beat France then we need to score tries and be clinical against them as well.”

Kearney took a full part in training yesterday after his groin stiffened up against Italy and will be included in Ireland's starting XV, named at lunchtime. Prop Cian Healy (jaw), Sean O'Brien (ankle) Gordon D'Arcy (shoulder and foot) also picked up knocks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday but are fit to face France.

Meanwhile, former Ireland full-back Conor O'Shea, Harlequins director of rugby, has revealed he would be “delighted” to be part of the panel that helps select the new England head coach.

O'Shea and Sir Ian McGeechan have been linked with a role as Premiership Rugby representatives on the five-man committee charged with suggesting Martin Johnson's permanent successor.

The panel will be chaired by the RFU's new chief executive Ian Ritchie.

The Twickenham representatives on committee are reported to be Rob Andrew, the RFU's professional rugby director, and head of elite coach development Kevin Bowring.

Belfast Telegraph


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