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We’re Up For The Challenge – Wallace

We’re Up For The Challenge – Wallace

It will be a sentence much repeated throughout the week – Ireland have only won once in Paris over the past 38 years. Yes, that day of days back in March 2000 at the Stade de France where Brian O’Driscoll announced himself on the world stage with a thrilling hat-trick of tries.

Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and John Hayes are the only surviving members from that 2000 Irish side who are set to play this weekend in Paris in a match which some feel will decide this year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Both Ireland and France opened with wins last weekend, Declan Kidney’s men seeing off Italy on a 29-11 scoreline in Dublin and the Marc Lievremont-led French downing Scotland 18-9 thanks to two tries from bustling centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

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In recent years, Ireland’s Championship trips to Paris have been laced with some breathtaking scores and heart-stopping moments.

But on both occasions, the home side has prevailed – les Bleus won a ten-try thriller, 43-31, in 2006 and there were six tries scored in the 26-21 defeat for Ireland two years ago.

David Wallace was a try scorer in that 2008 encounter as Ireland battled back from a 23-3 deficit to make a real game of it, before unfortunately running out of time as they ended the game camped in the French 22..

Gordon D’Arcy stated in the aftermath of the win over Italy that he dearly wants a Test win over France on French soil to add to his CV.

And flanker Wallace, eyeing up the same prize, says that such a result is well within Ireland’s capabilities, particularly given Leinster, Munster and Connacht’s European wins away in France already this season.

“It’s a very difficult place to go and play. But I think we’ve got to take confidence from the way the provinces and players involved with the provinces have gone down there and won in France,” he said.

“Obviously it’s a step-up again, but we’ve got to use that as a motivation builder and confidence builder. There’s no doubt it’s a difficult place to go, but we’re up for the challenge.”

Wallace was RBS man-of-the-match in Ireland’s two-try triumph over Italy at Croke Park last Saturday and knows that a much-improved effort will be required in the Paris cauldron.

He readily admits that showing some fighting spirit – a good, old traditional virtue of Irish teams – and scrapping any which way for the win could be a key factor for the visitors. 

“Players growing up, watching Irish teams in the past, they always had that (fighting spirit), and that’s something we want to emulate,” explained Wallace.

“It’s certainly part and parcel of the game – even though it’s the professional era now – and I think it’s definitely very relevant.

“I think Gert Smal, our forwards coach, referred to it. He mentioned how we had that kind of spirit in us when we played South Africa.

“Somebody coming from the outside looking in, it’s good to have that perspective on it and it’s good to know that we have that in our armoury and to hold onto it and use it.”

A Grand Slam and Magners League winner last year as well as a Lions Test player, Wallace is hopeful that the harsh lessons of 2008 have been learned and that Ireland can banish memories of that agonising five-point loss.

“It’s one that stands out in my mind, where if we had five more minutes we felt we could have taken it.

“We had a disaster of a first half where they got a couple of tries from the bounce of the ball and stuff like that.

“You can’t let them get up a head of steam in any part of the game.”

So, what does he make of the current French side and their man of the moment, Bastareaud?

Commenting on their opening win over Scotland, the Munster ace added: “France looked quite good. They had some chances to score a couple more tries in the first half, which would have put them out of sight, and that just shows you can’t afford to let them play.

“(Bastareaud) looked good from the bits of the game I saw. We’ve got to have confidence in our defence and be able to stop him at source.”