…Dempsey: Pressure Is On France…’Woody’ Wants Ireland To Front Up…O’Brien Gives Referees A Pass Grade…Say What?…Numbers Game…
DEMPSEY: PRESSURE IS ON FRANCE: Insisting that there is too much talent in the Ireland team for it to “be in crisis”, full-back Girvan Dempsey feels tonight’s game against France is akin to a World Cup final for the hosts.
“Certainly it’s a big game for us with a lot riding on it, but for France it’s like a World Cup final. If they lose, their tournament is virtually over.
“There’s the perception that we are going into the game with our backs against the wall, but the pressure on France is huge. If we can get the start we want and ask a few questions of them, the French fans will be taken out of the game and the Irish fans will help us.
‘If we want to reach the quarter-finals this is a game we have to win. I played in Paris when we won in 2000 and there are a lot of guys on this team who were there, so we know we can do it.
“This match is right up there as one of the biggest in my career,” added the Leinster man, who is now fourth on the Irish all-time top try scorers’ list following his effort against Georgia last weekend.
‘WOODY’ WANTS IRELAND TO FRONT UP: Former Ireland hooker and captain Keith Wood has called on the men in green to up it in the physicality stakes for tonight’s Pool D ‘Le Crunch’ with France.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Wood also opined that losing this year’s Six Nations championship to France may have had an affect on the Irish team’s confidence.
“Ireland had their hands on the championship trophy six months ago only to let it slip from their grasp, and that seems to have affected their confidence. Even though they had not won the championship, some of their play suggested huge potential for this World Cup, with everyone putting them in the top four or five. We do have two wins from two, but the paucity of Ireland’s play has deflated a nation hungry for success,” Wood wrote.
“The confidence of the supporters is low, but the support will stay the same, and the doom and gloom would dissipate pretty quickly with a win this evening – Ireland would be back on track. Otherwise we are in the lap of the gods, with bonus points coming into play. It would make for an exciting end to the pool stage, but would also be ulcer-inducing.”
Wood, who retired after leading Ireland to the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, wants Ireland’s forwards to put down an early marker tonight, admitting that the first 20 minutes will tell much about whether the men in green can pull off a surprise win.
“Good players don’t become bad ones overnight, or even over a month. When a whole team misfires – and I can’t think of an Irish player who has performed to his normal standard – it means there is something wrong. In my view we have forgotten one of the biggest tenets of the game and that is leaching into the 80 minutes.
In international matches the forwards need to get into the game early and set down a marker. Rugby is physical, brutal and gladiatorial. After that it can be sublime and exciting, but it rarely is if the grunt hasn’t taken place. And Ireland have been missing the grunt,” he conceded.
“If Ireland are in the game after 20 minutes we will have a very good chance. If we start poorly, we will be stuffed. There will be no respite, with Bernard Laporte taking off six French players for the fun of it with 20 minutes to go.”
O’BRIEN GIVES REFEREES A PASS GRADE: IRB Referees manager Paddy O’Brien has been pleased with the performance of the match officials so far in the World Cup, but admits that they still have plenty to work on.
“Overall I’m very happy so far, but there’s always room for improvement. The referees are on their toes – we’re having selection meetings and performance reviews with them – and they know there are areas they need to improve in. But overall, very happy,” O’Brien told Total Rugby Radio.
“Things like we’ve discussed pre-tournament – scrum engagements and getting pillars back – all my referees are trying hard in that area. We’re always going to have personalities out there that play advantage longer than others and we’re trying to bring that gap a bit closer. At this point, I give my referees a pass.”
One area that is far from black and white at times is the role of the Television match official and O’Brien was honest enough to admit that some TMO decisions in the tournament so far have been wrong.
“It’s a very difficult area. There have been several tight calls in this tournament – we’ve even had a 50-50 split amongst our own referees about whether it’s a try or not a try. I don’t think the technology of the TMO has solved all the problems, in fact in some areas it’s probably made it worse.
What I am pleased about is that referees have had the gumption or the TMOs to actually make the call. I don’t think we’ve got them all right, I have to be honest about that.
“I think there have been a couple of poor TMO decisions. We’ve spoken to the TMOs after those decisions. Again we’re talking about humans here – we can bring in as much technology as we like, but humans will make errors,” the New Zealander added.
“I’m going to the hairdresser and the barber. I’ll bring you back a lock of my hair.”
– Could it be a case of hair today, gone tomorrow for France’s cult hero forward Sebastien Chabal, who was speaking to reporters after a training session on Thursday
“We haven’t played very well in the last two games, but that’s the only reason maybe some guys are a bit down or guys are a bit, you know, edgy and really wanting to put it right. That’s maybe the only difference there is in the camp to the Six Nations.
“But I think that’s a good thing, our camp is always like that. I remember our camp the week after we lost to France in the Six Nations, you knew there was a big performance coming. So it’s kind of similar like that at the moment.”
– Lock Paul O’Connell on the atmosphere in the Ireland camp at present and the likelihood of a big performance from the men in green against France
“I am really happy for him. It is a big reward for a great player and a good team-mate at Wasps. He’s improved a lot in his spell in England and there’s no doubt about the quality of his game. He’s very dangerous for any opposition. The fact that he is starting is not good news for France.”
– France hooker and captain Raphael Ibanez gives his opinion on his Wasps team-mate Eoin Reddan’s promotion to the Ireland starting line-up for the Stade de France showdown
6 – The longest winning streak Ireland have had in their series of matches against France. The Irish won six times against the French between 1909 and 1914 and also between 1924 and 1928 (the teams played twice in 1928). The sides’ first ever meeting at Lansdowne Road in 1909 ended in a 19-8 home win
75 – The number of points Ronan O’Gara has scored in eight Test matches against France to date. That equates to two tries, ten conversions and fifteen penalties
13 – The record number of appearances that Ireland’s Mike Gibson and Frenchman Philippe Sella have made during the 82 matches to date between the countries. Of the current crop, Ireland’s John Hayes and Malcolm O’Kelly have both played nine times against France, while France’s long-time lock Fabien Pelous has lined out 12 times against Ireland