18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
"I can't say it'll be the biggest week forever but this is a colossal match. We're doing everything we can to get the right result out of it."
Ireland have been less than impressive so far in the tournament, struggling to beat Pool D outsiders Namibia and Georgia, but O'Driscoll insists there is a confidence in the squad that they can end France's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
"I think as players we are confident and there is no reason to panic. There is as much pressure on France as there is on Ireland. It is a crunch match. I think whoever wins this game will go on to the next phase of the tournament - and both teams know it."
The 77-times capped centre watched France's 87-10 demolition of Namibia and admitted les Bleus were "very convincing." "They finished well and perhaps they showed that killer instinct that they were lacking in the Argentina match. They started slipping off tackles a little bit more and the French are one of the best sides in the world when they're playing with that kind of confidence," he added.
O'Driscoll is looking forward to seeing how scrum half Eoin Reddan, who has been parachuted into the team in place of Peter Stringer, plays against France as he rates the Wasps clubman very highly.
"In fairness to Eoin, his opportunity has come. He's trained well throughout - always remained very focused - he's a good worker, a good talker and he's playing with confidence having come off a successful season with Wasps. So it's as good a time as any to give the guy a chance.
"He's a very smart footballer. He's always thinking, reads the game very well and is defensively strong, and not only in the way he tackles.
Defence isn't all about tackles, there are other components to it. He has a very varied game, which is another string to our bow," commented the skipper.
The Irish team selected for the Stade de France encounter shows three changes to the one which started last Saturday's 14-10 victory over Georgia, with Reddan, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery coming in for Stringer, Denis Hickie and Rory Best.
"Certain people often come off worse than others when a team plays badly, but you've got to have control. If you have widespread changes you can change the continuity of the side a bit. Peter and Denis were the unlucky two, with Rory out injured too, but with that comes a great opportunity for the guys coming in. The landscape isn't massively changed, it has just tightened up a little bit," O'Driscoll explained.
The Dubliner, who has captained Ireland to 30 wins in 40 Test matches, is coming back into form after recovering from his fractured sinus injury and is primed to put in a big performance at the Saint Denis stadium, the ground at which he announced himself on the international stage in 2000 by scoring a hat-trick of tries against the French.
"I'm getting there and was happy to get more ball in hand against Georgia and have a go myself, but I also made a few mistakes. I want to make sure I get my basics right. Fundamentally, that's what my game relies on. Anything after that is an added bonus. I'm starting to get more confident and hopefully now I can put in a big performance."
On how Ireland will approach Friday's mouth-watering clash, O'Driscoll added: "Ireland and France is always a big game but the whole anticipation is heightened because of the way we are sitting in the table at the minute. We'll have the basics covered on their analysis and our own.
"We don't solely work on just ourselves. You maybe concentrate more on your own game but you also look deeply at the other side and that's just part of Test match rugby these days.
"We have lost our last five matches against them but I've beaten them on three occasions. On the days you beat France, you tend not to beat them by more than one score. You have to stop them from playing. That's crucial. You implement your own game and stop them at theirs."