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Countdown To Paris: Three Days To Go

Countdown To Paris: Three Days To Go

…Bowe: We Will Raise Our Game…All Shapes And Sizes…Take Five – Ireland v France Recent Meetings…Say What?…Numbers Game…

BOWE: WE WILL RAISE OUR GAME: Winger Tommy Bowe has warned Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations opponents that there is more to come from them – admitting that even during last year’s Grand Slam run, they did not play to their full potential.

And Bowe feels that things may just click into place in Paris this weekend as the Irish look to maintain their winning start to the Championship and extend their unbeaten run to 13 matches.

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“We probably only played to 50 to 60% of our potential last year but it was enough to win us the Championship and I think we have the players to play a bit more ­exciting rugby,” he said.

“I think some of what we did was very good and showed what we’ve got in our armoury. But there’s an awful lot more to come out of us.

“I think that’s going to be our real goal this year. To bring that out. And you’re going to have to bring that out to beat the French on their own patch.”

Bowe played his part in last year’s thrilling 30-21 win over the French at Croke Park, darting forward on the left wing in the lead-up to number 8 Jamie Heaslip’s memorable try at the Hill 16 end.

And while the Monaghan man’s last visit to the Stade de france was an unhappy one – being replaced after an hour in a 43-31 defeat back in 2006 – he says that there is a quiet confidence about camp that Ireland can pull off an elusive victory in Paris.

“To go over there and play them on their own patch is a massive challenge for us. But we’re a team full of confidence at the minute,” he explained.

“We’re playing good rugby, we’re on a winning streak and we’re very eager to get back out on the pitch after the Italian game.

“We’re a side full of guys who have gone to England and France and won big European games. That, and the run Ireland have been on, gives us a real confidence in ourselves.”

Bowe scored two tries in last year’s Grand Slam-winning campaign and would dearly love to open his account for 2010 at the home of French rugby.

Having analysed the DVD of the Scotland v France match from last Sunday, the 25-year-old reckons Ireland can exploit the gaps in the French defence that the Scottish side could not.

“Looking at last week’s match against them, Scotland managed to find quite a few holes but they weren’t able to finish their chances off.

“If you don’t take your opportunities against a team like France, you don’t give yourself much chance.

“Blitz defence is a scare tactic, but it leaves gaps. It will be up to us to exploit those.”

ALL SHAPES AND SIZES: Ireland provide the heaviest and tallest players in this year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship, along with one of the smallest.

The heaviest is Munster’s monster prop Tony Buckley, who tops the scales at 130kg or 20st 7lbs.

The tallest player among the six squads is uncapped lock Devin Toner from Leinster. He was included in the extended Irish squad for the 2010 RBS 6 Nations and ‘A’ matches. He stands at 2.08m tall or 6ft 10in.

The shortest players in the Championship squads are Welsh winger Shane Williams and scrum half Gareth Cooper at 1.71m (5ft 7in), along with Munster and Ireland scrum half Peter Stringer, who is also the lightest at 72kg (11st 5lbs).

TAKE FIVE – IRELAND v FRANCE RECENT MEETINGS: Click on the below links to view match reports from the last five encounters between Ireland and France at Test level.

2006 RBS 6 Nations: France 43 Ireland 31, Stade de France
2007 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 17 France 20, Croke Park
2007 Rugby World Cup – Pool D: France 25 Ireland 3, Stade de France
2008 RBS 6 Nations: France 26 Ireland 21, Stade de France
2009 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 30 France 21, Croke Park


“Back then we felt maybe that we’d stemmed the tide of losses. There’s been a big mixture of games since then, some have gotten away from us and we weren’t able to come back, and there were others where we gave them seemingly unassailable leads and nearly chased them down.

“But I don’t think it’s a case of accepting they’re going to come out of the blocks. I think it’s more about being proactive and trying to get out of the blocks yourselves and try and take the game to France.”

– Team captain Brian O’Driscoll speaks about Ireland’s last win in Paris back in 2000, while also highlighting the importance of a good start against the French this weekend

“We’re going to try and avoid the zones very close to the ruck where the Irish are extremely aggressive and well-organised. We’ll need our backs and forwards to bind together a bit more.

“We will need a jump in quality at all levels even if I thought our presence and aggression at ruck-time was fine (against Scotland). We will have to do more (than last week).

“They’ve had great players that have been around for years in (Paul) O’Connell, (David) Wallace, (Ronan) O’Gara and (Brian) O’Driscoll.

“But they’ve also discovered a few young players which has allowed them to develop a more complete type of play – guys like Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip, who is probably the best number 8 in the world.”

– France coach Marc Lievremont talks up opponents Ireland ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash in Paris, highlighting their strength in depth and the development of players such as Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip

“He’s a powerful guy and he looks to be very much one of their in-form players. He gives them great go-forward and he’s a quick enough guy considering the size of him.

“He seems to be a handful, but like any centre pairing Darce (Gordon D’Arcy) and I play against, we like to think we’ll give them as much trouble as they give us.

“Eighteen-and-a-half stone in a straight line is one thing, but it doesn’t necessarily shift as well when you run to the side of it.

“It’s our role to make sure that we don’t give him easy shots, try not to let him get into the game and to make sure that we make him work hard.

“There’s a whole back-line and the second you start thinking about one individual the threats come from elsewhere.”

Brian O’Driscoll talks about his opposite number, the powerfull-built Mathieu Bastareaud, who caught the eye with two tries in France’s opening 18-9 win over Scotland


5 – The number of Ireland players who made their RBS 6 Nations debuts in the two-try victory over Italy last weekend. They were Test newcomer Kevin McLaughlin, his Leinster colleague Cian Healy and second half replacements Donnacha Ryan, Keith Earls and Sean O’Brien.

224,779 – The total number of spectators who attended the opening three matches of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship. The 77,686-strong crowd at Croke Park was the biggest ever for an Ireland v Italy rugby international.

36 – John Hayes, Ireland’s long-serving prop and most-capped player, is the oldest player in the defending champions’ 2010 RBS 6 Nations squad. But he is not the oldest player in the tournament – that particular honour falls to England prop Julian White. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1973, eight months before Hayes came into the world.