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Countdown To Paris: One Day To Go

Countdown To Paris: One Day To Go

…Past Defeats Not On Players’ Minds – McNaughton…60 Not Out For Skipper O’Driscoll…France v Ireland: Did You Know?…Say What?…Numbers Game…

PAST DEFEATS NOT ON PLAYERS’ MINDS – MCNAUGHTON: Current Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton won 15 Test caps as a centre between 1978 and 1981. His playing record against France reads: played 4, won 0, drew 1 and lost 3.

The former Wanderers and Greystones player was part of the Ireland side that lost 10-9 at Parc des Princes in 1978, while he also on the Lansdowne Road pitch for the sides’ 9-9 draw the following year.

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Then there was the agony of 1980 in Paris where McNaughton and Ireland coughed up a 9-3 half-time lead and ended up losing 19-18. 

“It’s a very difficult place to win. We’ve won twice there in the last 38 years, 19 occasions,” said McNaughton, as the players prepare for Saturday’s encounter at the Stade de France. 

“This team is a confident team, they certainly feel they should have won there more often. And they’re confident going into this game that they’ve as good a chance as they’ve ever had.

“But it’s still a difficult place to win, there’s no doubt about that. It’s not just Ireland that find it difficult to win in Paris, it’s everybody else as well.”

Although they had a sticky patch initially when they opened the Stade de France in 1998 – losing eight of their first 12 games at the Saint-Denis venue – les Bleus have been in formidable form at their home ground over the past ten years.

They have only lost twice there to northern Hemisphere opposition in the past four years – England in 2007 and 2008. 

“It can be a reccuring theme, the failure to put away France in Paris. it goes back to the Ireland teams in the 1970s and 1980s, they lost 10-9 and 19-18,” added McNaughton.

“I think sometimes the history thing is lost on the guys really, they’re not really interested in it. They’re more interested in their era.

“They probably felt that they should have won more times there. But they don’t focus on it, quite frankly.”

60 NOT OUT FOR SKIPPER O’DRISCOLL: Brian O’Driscoll overtook Will Carling as the northern Hemisphere’s leading Test captain for his country when he led Ireland for the 60th time in the RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy at Croke Park.

It was O’Driscoll’s 61st outing as a Test captain, with one for the 2005 British & Irish Lions, and leaves him in second place on the world all-time list behind South Africa’s John Smit.

But the Leinster centre needs two more wins as captain to match Carling’s 44 in his 59 games in charge of England and five more to equal Smit. He took charge of Ireland for the first time against Australia in November 2002.

By contrast, Ryan Jones will equal Dai Young’s RBS 6 Nations record of 10 games as captain in the Championship against Scotland this weekend when he leads his country for the 21st time to move into joint fourth on the Welsh all-time list with Gareth Thomas.

Legendary winger Ieuan Evans leads the way for Wales with 28 games as captain (13 in the Five Nations).

Steve Borthwick will lead England for the 19th time in Rome, Thierry Dusautoir will captain France for the sixth time against Ireland, Chris Cusiter will take charge of the Scots for the fourth time in Cardiff and Leonardo Ghiraldini will skipper Italy for the third time.


– Clermont Auvergne back row man Julien Bonnaire won his 48th cap against Scotland and now needs just two more caps to become the 42nd French international to reach the 50-cap landmark. Second row Lionel Nallet reached 50 at Murrayfield in Round 1

– Something will have to give in Paris when France host reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland. Both teams are locked on 37 victories in 51 games in the RBS 6 Nations. Whoever wins will take the lead in the Championship 

– Ireland coach Declan Kidney has yet to lose an RBS 6 Nations match. His Irish team have won six games under his guidance and will be looking to match their RBS 6 Nations record of seven straight wins (2004-2005) in Paris

– Ireland have not been beaten since 15 November, 2008, when the All Blacks lowered their colours 22-3 at Croke Park. They are currently unbeaten in their last 12 matches, which includes one draw against Australia

– Vincent Clerc has scored five of his 8 RBS 6 Nations tries against Ireland, including his country’s only hat-trick in the Championship the last time the two teams met in Paris in 2008


“We’re not treating Stephen (Ferris) with kid gloves. It was prudent for him to sit training out as there’s a balance to strike when a player comes back in.

“Stephen is fine, he’s been charging around in training but we wanted to hold him back a bit.

“Kevin McLaughlin did a good job for us against Italy as his replacement but Stephen, despite being the younger player, has that little bit more big match experience.

“This back row has played together a bit – Stephen, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip have an understanding of each other’s game.

“They complement each other. Like the other lads, Stephen can carry, makes tackles and can operate in the lineout.”

– Ireland coach Declan Kidney explains why fit-again flanker Stephen Ferris said out the Captain’s Run training session at the Stade de France on the eve of the game

“Some of the better results we achieved in the 2000s were due to the provinces going over there and getting used to beating these teams. That’s probably a big part of breaking down the psychological barrier of beating French teams.

“Before the Heineken Cup, Irish teams only played French teams once a year in the Six Nations and it’s been great for us to get exposed to that high level of rugby.

“All these things give you motivation. Last year was my first time beating France, so if we could beat them away from home, it would be an incredible feeling and a good box ticked in some of our careers.”

– Ireland lock Paul O’Connell speaks about how the provinces winning on French soil has given confidence to the national set-up and how beating les Bleus on Saturday would be a career highlight

“The Irish have a great team, with a Munster spine, but I am not impressed. We can be by certain players but not in general by their team.

“How many matches have they gone without defeat? Twelve, 13? Well fine, that will finish at 12 this Saturday.

“To win you shouldn’t respect your opponents too much. If you respect them too much, if there’s too much admiration, then we can’t be above them.

“Personally I don’t have admiration for anyone I’ll be facing. But careful, that doesn’t prevent respect. They have gone 12 matches without defeat after all. But it’s respect not admiration.”

– France scrum half Morgan Parra was in outspoken form as he previewed Saturday’s clash in Paris.


3 – Brian O’Driscoll holds the record for scoring the most tries in a single RBS 6 Nations match for Ireland, courtesy of his memorable three-try haul against the French in 2000.

Winger Vincent Clerc holds the French record for the three he scored against Ireland in the sides’ 2008 meeting in Paris.

420 – The France team selected for this weekend’s heavyweight showdown has a Test caps total of 420, with the average age being 27 and 105kg is the average weight of the starting forwards.

618 – The Ireland team chosen for Saturday’s eagerly-awaited match has a Test caps total of 618, with the average age being 28 and 110kg is the average weight of the starting forwards.

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Countdown To Paris: Three Days To Go