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Kidney: We’re Facing The Ultimate Challenge

Kidney: We’re Facing The Ultimate Challenge

Declan Kidney has urged Ireland to end their long wait for success in Paris by rising to the most daunting challenge in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday.

The Grand Slam champions’ title defence will face its first major examination when they face Championship favourites France.

It has been a decade since Ireland last triumphed in the French capital and head coach Declan Kidney, who has never lost a Six Nations match, admits France’s home record is to be respected.

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“If you’re not excited about this one, there’s no reason to be here,” said Kidney, at Friday’s pre-match press conference.

“It’s probably the ultimate challenge in Six Nations rugby when you see France have lost just twice in their last 20 Six Nations matches at home.

“Not many sides are capable of achieving a home record like that. We’ll give it our best shot.”

On their previous two visits, Ireland were guilty of making poor starts that enabled France to establish half-time leads of 29-3 and 19-6 respectively.

Les Bleus were pegged back to 43-31 in 2006 and 26-21 in 2008 thanks to a pair of courageous fightbacks, but those defeats have highlighted to team captain Brian O’Driscoll the need to avoid conceding early tries.

“I don’t think we feeling any trepidation from having lost so often in Paris,” he said.

“A great lesson was two years ago when we didn’t want the final whistle to go. We gave them a very large lead and managed to reel them in.

“Knowing what we’re capable of doing, you have to take the plusses from games – even when you lose.

“We know we’re capable of scoring tries here in Paris, it’s just a case of making sure we don’t concede four in the first half.

“We don’t have to accept that France are going to come out of the blocks, it’s about trying to get out of the blocks ourselves and take the game to them.”

O’Driscoll has particularly fond memories of Paris, thanks to his hat-trick heroics of 2000, but he is determined to make some new memories when these two heavyweights of European rugby collide at the Stade de France.

Then, as a little-known 21-year-old, the Dubliner was catapulted to stardom with a scintillating three-try salvo that underpinned a 27-25 triumph over France.

O’Driscoll said: “My life changed a good bit since then. I didn’t realise how big a deal it was until I got home. It was a big change for Irish rugby.

“A lot of new guys had come in during that Six Nations and after winning in Paris, the mentality and focus of the team changed, hopefully for ever.

“If it did anything positive it changed the mentality of us as a rugby team and rugby nation.

“Winning in 2000 was part of the catalyst to how the game for us has changed. It would be silly to say it wasn’t.

“We hadn’t won in Paris for so long – back in 1972 – and it gave us the belief we could win if we played well.”

He added: “There are only three of us remaining from 10 years ago – Rog (Ronan O’Gara), John (Hayes) and myself – so there are a lot of guys who haven’t won an international on French soil.

“These are little things that we want to pick off. It would mean a lot to the guys to win on Saturday.”