You have read and heard the thoughts of various journalists and commentators in the lead-up to tonight’s mouth-watering World Cup meeting of Ireland and France. But what do the players think? Read on for more.
“I’m very frustrated with my own game. There were patches in both games (against Namibia and Georgia) when I felt I was getting back to where I need to be physically and then I go and drop a ball or give away a silly penalty, I need to get the consistency back that I had last season.
“Then there was the kick that had me a nervous wreck after Georgia. I missed the Under-21 World Cup over a citing in the AIB League a few years ago and, with the bans that have been handed out at this World Cup, I was genuinely worried it would happen again.
“I was coming out of a ruck and one of their guys yanked me back and I kicked out instinctively. It was stupid but it was borne out of frustration.
“There’s no point looking back, the focus has to be on knocking the French. The team announcement came as a bit of a surprise, the first I knew about Eoin Reddan getting in was when it was read out in the team room. You feel gutted for Strings (Peter Stringer) but excited for Eoin. On a practical level, we have had to do a lot of homework on calls and such because although we have been friends since our schooldays, I haven’t played with Eoin very often.
“The French team also had a few surprises, no (Yannick) Jauzion and (Sebastien) Chabal in the second row. Chabal is an energising figure for them, but we sorted him out a few seasons ago when Sale came to Thomond Park. If he is showing for ball off second phase I could be the pillar defender and, if that happens, you have to bury him. Meet fire with fire.
“We know what we have to do. We have not become a bad team overnight. For all the doom and gloom, we’ve still won both our games and our fate is in our own hands. The World Cup is the last chance for this team to prove itself and we can’t leave anything behind us tonight.”
– Denis Leamy’s World Cup column appears in the Irish Independent
“I’ve played against France three times in Ireland, but for one reason or another I’ve always missed playing in their back yard. France are more than tough at home and it’s no accident that we’ve only managed one win in Paris since 1972.
“It’s going to be tough on Friday, but I solemnly believe there’s a big performance in this team. This is a huge pressure game for us, but even more so for the French. If they lose they’re out and that’s got to take its toll on them. The way we’re looking at it is that it’s an opportunity to knock them out of the competition.
“I must say I’m personally upset by some of the criticism the team has been getting. Some people seem happy to jump on the latest bandwagon and slate the team. Ireland’s a great country and great to support its sportsmen, but at the same time there always seems to be that small minority of people who are prepared to knock this team too quickly.
“As professional people we have to be able to take this kind of criticism – it’s part of the job. But everyone out here is proud to be representing the country and doing their level best for Ireland. It’s important for people at home to remember that.
“Now we need the whole country to get behind us. We’ve an opportunity on Friday night to banish two bad performances with a famous win. Believe me we’re going to do it.”
– Alan Quinlan’s World Cup diary appears in the Limerick Leader
“There is no point getting down about my (thumb) injury. It isn’t going to help the healing. There is nothing I can do apart from treat it with ice every hour while our physio Cameron Steele has also put some special Japanese tape on my arm to help get rid of the swelling. I’ll give anything a go to get back.
“Despite having my hand strapped up, I am still able to do some training. I did some lower body weights and power weights on my good arm with Mike McGurn. Hope I won’t be running in circles when the harness comes off! I also did some speed work and running.
“We headed for Paris on Wednesday, taking the TGV from Bordeaux. A very relaxing way to travel. The journey was just over three hours and the mood is good. My brother Mark called me and said that even though I’m not in the Ireland team, I can still be in his team! Mark is travelling over from London for the match with a few mates and it will be nice to see him and catch up.
“The pressure is on us but I have no doubt that the boys will front up against France on Friday night. I know the team will do everything that is asked of them and more.”
– Rory Best’s World Cup diary appears in the Belfast Telegraph
“Eddie named the team for the game with France on Friday from 15 down and then went through the replacements. When I heard my name at the end of that list, it was a great feeling. As you can imagine, I was buzzing, and I had a pep in my step for the subsequent training session.
“Considering the magnitude of the task ahead, being part of the matchday 22 is a great moment for me and an opportunity that I am relishing. Preparation is key and I’ve been going through the same routine as I would for any test match this week.
“One of the benefits of a close-knit squad like we have is that everyone is ready to step up and play if called upon. We’ve been working hard in training and familiarising ourselves with all the moves throughout the past few weeks, because you can’t predict when you might get the call.
“I’ve never played at the Stade de France. I watched a game there a few years back when I was touring with the Irish Under-21 squad, a French championship semi-final between Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne.
“It was an incredible atmosphere but I’d say it still won’t come close to what we’ll experience on Friday night. When I get to the stadium I’ll use those initial few minutes to get used to the surroundings and walk the pitch on my own before we warm up as a team.
“Last Saturday’s clash against Georgia was a brutally physical test and we had to fight hard in defence in the closing stages just to avoid a massive upset. Obviously the players were disappointed not to have won more convincingly.
“The dressing room was silent in the immediate aftermath of the game, but some of the more experienced heads took the lead in lifting spirits. We are still very much alive in this competition and we know there is a hell of a lot more in the tank.”
– Gavin Duffy’s World Cup column appears in the Mayo News