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O’Driscoll Looking Forward To French Challenge

O’Driscoll Looking Forward To French Challenge

To borrow that well-known mnemonic, it will be a case of either ‘spring forward’ or ‘fall back’ when Ireland enter the 2009 RBS 6 Nations fray on Saturday. The importance of a good start to the tournament cannot be underestimated and Brian O’Driscoll exudes the quiet optimism that is currently in the Irish camp.

“I always enjoy playing against French teams. The first few years I had great memories of victories against them. Obviously the last number of years we’ve struggled but it’s always a tough game,” said Brian O’Driscoll, ahead of France’s second ever visit to Croke Park.

“You like pitting yourself against the best teams in the world and more often than not France are one of those.

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“(Florian) Fritz and (Yannick) Jauzion are one of the strongest centre pairings in the world and we’ll have our work cut out but hopefully they will likewise.”

Ireland and France have met 11 times since 2000, with les Bleus chalking up eight wins during that time and Ireland victorious in the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Six Nations matches.

A feature of France’s last two Six Nations triumphs over Ireland has been their ability to get off to the better start. In 2007, Ireland were left trailing by 13-3 early on, mainly due to a Raphael Ibanez try.

Twelve months ago, a first half hat-trick of tries from Vincent Clerc and then a fourth score from Cedric Heymans, early in the second half, sent les Bleus into a 26-6 lead before they finished up 26-21 winners.

O’Driscoll, though, is determined that France will be the team left chasing the game this time around.

“There are times that they are vunerable but that’s no different to any other team. It’s just about identifying when those opportunities arise and making sure that you take hold of them because there might only be a couple in a game and you’ve got to make them pay for their slip-ups.

!Losing in the last-minute at Croke Park and pushing them right to the wire in Stade de France when we were written off at half-time…they were two very different games.

“But we’d like to think they find us a handful as well. We’re not a pushover even when we do concede four sloppy tries.

“We showed great guts last year when coming back and on another day we might have snatched victory from them.”

There have been suggestions that Ireland, with Rob Kearney positioned at full-back and Paddy Wallace at inside centre, are bracing themselves for a big kicking game on Saturday.

O’Driscoll said that that would just be one facet of their play and that the players selected are more than capable of varying things up in terms of attacking and counter-attacking.

“The kicking game has become more and more important with the new rules. It’s great to have good kickers in your team,” he added.

“I’d like to think Rob Kearney doesn’t seem himself as a kicking full-back. Paddy Wallace certainly doesn’t see himself as a kicking 12.

“You’ve seen the way Rog (Ronan O’Gara) has played this year, he has mixed his game wonderfully.

“I’d like to think we definitely have that (kicking) option but we’re well capable of mixing it up as well.”