Click here for photos from Friday afternoon’s Ireland kicking practice at the Stade de France in Paris.
Pictured above: Ireland fly half Ronan O’Gara gets in some kicking practice at the Stade de France. O’Gara has played three times at the Saint-Denis stadium previously, as a starter in 2000 (2 conversions) and 2004 (2 conversions, 1 penalty), and as a replacement in 2002 (no points).
Mindful of how shackled Ireland’s midfield was by Italy’s “blitz” defence last week, O’Gara said of the clash with France: “You have to vary things when you face the blitz defence and keep your opponents guessing. I don’t think Brian (O’Driscoll) and Gordon (D’Arcy) have encountered a defence quite like that before.
“The second receiver becomes more important than the first receiver. We’ll have to be smarter in how we attack this weekend. Italy contained Gordon well. Our dummy runners have to give him more options because he essentially becomes a ball player when it’s a blitz defence.”
Ronan O’Gara lines up a kick at the Stade de France. Saturday marks the Corkman’s 56th cap for Ireland. O’Gara has started the last 11 of Ireland’s 6 Nations outings, stretching back to February 2004 when the men in green last visited Paris.
Leinster full-back Girvan Dempsey at Friday’s kicking practice. The 30-year-old has failed to make the matchday 22 for Saturday’s tussle between Ireland and France, but his evident form should see him come into the side at some stage during the 2006 Championship.
The man in the full-back hot seat, Geordan Murphy, takes part in a mock interview conducted by Girvan Dempsey, with Ireland fitness coach Mike McGurn watching on.
Girvan Dempsey practices his kicking at the Stade de France.
Ronan O’Gara, who is expecting to face a fired-up French side, lines a kick up in Paris. Previewing Saturday’s clash, O’Gara said: “France losing to Scotland was not the result we were expecting. It’s fairly rare you see a French team losing two in a row in the 6 Nations.
“That makes the task that bit harder for us. Of course there will be a backlash from France but hopefully there will be more from us after the way we played against Italy. We’re confident that we won’t play like we did last weekend because we’re in for a hiding if we play like that again, it’s a simple as that.
“I’m not stupid enough to think otherwise. But if we can get our game going it should be a great match.”
Ronan O’Gara launches another kick at the eerily quiet Stade de France.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**
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