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Countdown To Paris: Two Days To Go

Countdown To Paris: Two Days To Go

…Ireland Could Break Southern Hemisphere’s Rankings Hold…O’Gara Hits The Front In Points-Scoring Chart…Championship’s League Of Nations…Say What?…Numbers Game…

IRELAND COULD BREAK SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE’S RANKINGS HOLD: Ireland will not only take a step towards back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles if they beat France at the Stade de France on Saturday, but also break the southern Hemisphere domination in the IRB World Rankings’ top three.

A first win on French soil since March 2000 – regardless of the margin of victory – will see Ireland take over third spot from Australia to equal their best ever position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.

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The men in green, who last briefly occupied third position in November 2006, currently trail Australia by just under a rating point and even with an emphatic victory they will still be five and two points adrift of New Zealand and South Africa respectively.

On the other hand, a sixth successive defeat at the Stade de France and Ireland will lose their mantle as the leading northern Hemisphere nation in the rankings with their conquerors assuming fourth position, regardless of the winning margin.

France themselves can go no higher than fourth this weekend, but could close to 1.16 rating points of Australia with a victory by more than 15 points, a result which would also give them just over a point cushion to Ireland.

A victory for France would also preserve their claim as the last side to win back-to-back Grand Slams, in 1997 and 1998.

This has only happened on four other occasions since France joined the Championship a century ago, by England (three times) and Wales.

It is not all positive news for France as the IRB World Rankings go, though, as they could potentially end the weekend in sixth if they lose to Ireland and England beat Italy at the Stadio Flaminio, albeit depending on the winning margins.


1(1) NEW ZEALAND 91.68 rating points
2(2) SOUTH AFRICA 88.60
3(3) AUSTRALIA 85.56
4(4) IRELAND 84.60
5(5) FRANCE 83.13
6(6) ENGLAND 81.34
7(7) ARGENTINA 80.56
8(8) WALES 79.27
9(10) FIJI 75.90
10(9) SCOTLAND 75.87

* Last week’s positions in brackets

O’GARA HITS THE FRONT IN POINTS-SCORING CHART: Out-half Ronan O’Gara hoisted his RBS 6 Nations and Championship points records through the 500-point barrier with his 16-point kicking contribution to Ireland’s opening day
victory over Italy.

O’Gara, the top points scorer in four of the last five RBS 6 Nations tournaments, now has 515 Championship points to his name. His best campaign was back in 2007 when he finished the five-match run with 82 points.

In terms of this year’s points-scoring race, England’s Jonny Wilkinson is hot on his heels with 15 points. Between them, O’Gara and Wilkinson have led the RBS 6 Nations points-scoring table for each of the last five years and in nine of the ten Championships between 2000 and 2009.

O’Gara was admittedly happy with his own performance in the win over Italy. He kicked four penalties and two conversions, feeling ‘sharp’ and ‘hungry for battle.’

“My wife and kids were at the game which is always great and explains why I played well,” he said.

“I felt very proud during the anthems thinking of my son and daughter watching from the stands…mind you, at 16 months I heard afterwards that they weren’t too interested!”

2010 RBS 6 Nations – Leading Points Scorers: 16 – Ronan O’Gara (Ireland); 15 – Jonny Wilkinson (England); 10 – Mathieu Bastareaud (France), James Haskell (England); 9 – Chris Paterson (Scotland)

2010 RBS 6 Nations – Leading Try Scorers: 2 – Mathieu Bastareaud (France), James Haskell (England); 1 – Danny Care (England), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), James Hook (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Tomas O’Leary (Ireland), Kaine Robertson (Italy)

CHAMPIONSHIP’S LEAGUE OF NATIONS: The RBS 6 Nations Championship is essentially a tribal tournament played
between six European teams, but the players who take part in it are born all over the world.

In Round 1, there were players born in 18 different nations taking part in the three matches.

Here is a breakdown of the players in the squads who were born outside the country they are representing.

Ireland (3) – Tom Court (Australia), Jamie Heaslip (Israel), Ronan O’Gara (USA)

Italy (11) – Matias Aguero, Gonzalo Canale, Martin Castrogiovanni, Gonzalo Garcia (all Argentina), Carlo Del Fava, Quintin Geldenhuys (both South Africa), Craig Gower, Luke McLean (both Australia), Kaine Robertson, Josh Sole (both New Zealand), Manoa Vosawai (Fiji)

England (6) – Delon Armitage, Steffon Armitage (both Trinidad), Riki Flutey, Shontayne Hape, Dylan Hartley (all New Zealand), Simon Shaw (Kenya)

Wales (3) – Luke Charteris, Jonathan Davies, Tom Shanklin (all England)

Scotland (10) – John Barclay, Graeme Morrison (both Hong Kong), Max Evans, Alex Grove, Jim Hamilton, Ruaridh Jackson, Hugo Southwell (all England), Thom Evans (Zimbabwe), Nathan Hines, Dan Parks (both Australia)

France (2) – Thierry Dusautoir (Ivory Coast), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso)


“I’ve been working a lot with (my sports psychologist) Gerry Hussey and he’s been brilliant. I try not to think about the game until I hit the dressing room.

“Even during the warm-up, I try to wonder about as if nothing is happening and there’s no big game.

“I’ll also watch YouTube clips of (Diego) Maradona warming up. He used to do all these skills and play up to the crowd.

“He was so relaxed but sill performed brilliantly under pressure. I look at that and try to stay cool.”

– Ireland winger Keith Earls gives an insight into his pre-match preparations as he gears up to win his seventh Ireland cap this Saturday

“We have a broad plan but the boys will also have to think on their feet. You can try and second guess France but that’s dangerous.

“France’s set piece is strong, so is their continuity and offload game. They bring the unexpected.

“That gets them playing free-flowing rugby and, when they play like that, they’ll make hay against anybody.

“They played like that against New Zealand last summer and South Africa in the autumn and came out on top both times.”

– Ireland coach Declan Kidney speaks about the game-plan for taking on France and the threat the French can pose in bringing the ‘unexpected’

“We will go out there and attack France, without doubt. There are opportunities. We’re looking at the varying ways they defend and we’ve got a pretty good handle on what we think they’ll do, although, with the French, expect the unexpected.

“But there are areas we can have a go at irrespective of which defensive pattern they use.

“We weren’t trying to hold things back (against Italy). The menu we had for the weekend was the menu we didn’t touch upon too much as the game went on.

“That was for a variety of circumstantial reasons, it wasn’t because we were holding back.

“We would have liked to have played the plays and that was one of the disappointing aspects, but it wasn’t a lack of intent – we just didn’t quite get control of the game.”

– Ireland backs coach Alan Gaffney gives his take on how the defending champions will look to attack France on Saturday, and reflects on the win over Italy


30 – It is happy birthday to Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy, who turned the ripe old age of 30 on Wednesday. Luckily it was a down day for the Irish squad so the Wexford man got to relax and enjoy his personal milestone!

D’Arcy was one of eight ‘twenty somethings’ in the Ireland team that started last weekend’s win over Italy, with his Leinster colleague Cian Healy being the youngest at 22. Replacements that day, Sean O’Brien and Keith Earls, are also 22.

133 – The France v Ireland clashes in recent years have been high-scoring affairs, and that trend looks set to continue. Since the dawn of the Six Nations in 2000, Ireland have scored 133 tries (averaging 2.66 per match) in Championship action, and conceded 92 (1.84 average).

France have tallied up 138 (2.76 average) to date, and leaked a total of 78 (1.56 average).

31 – As well as passing the 500-point mark in Championship rugby, last weekend saw Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara extend his RBS 6 Nations record of scoring in successive matches to 31 games.

Indeed, his tally of points from the opening match in 2004 to the Grand Slam-clinching victory over Wales last March is 370. That gives him 48.6% of Ireland’s overall total of 760 points over the past six Championships.

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Countdown To Paris: Three Days To Go