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Players Highlight Importance Of Solid Start

Players Highlight Importance Of Solid Start

Record points scorer Ronan O’Gara has urged his Ireland team-mates to end their decade-long wait for success in France by exploding out of the blocks in Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown with les Bleus.

The defending champions face the greatest threat to their title defence when they meet the Championship favourites at the Stade de France on Saturday evening.

It is 10 years since Ireland have prevailed in Paris, a barren spell that has not been helped by hitting the self-destruct button on the last two visits.

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On both occasions France were allowed to establish a big lead before surviving a rousing, if futile, fightback.

In 2006 Ireland trailed 29-3 at half-time before succumbing 43-31, while two years later they conceded a 19-6 interval lead in a match they ultimately lost 26-21.

“We’ve always given France too much of a headstart when we’ve gone to Paris,” said out-half Ronan O’Gara, who started both games.

“They’re a formidable team when you let them play their game and they’re on the front foot.

“We’re usually 20-odd points down and while we manage to get back into it, it’s always too late. The start is imperative this weekend.

“The first 20 minutes is exactly what we’re looking at. From the national point of view it’s been too long since we’ve won there so we’re keen to address that.”

O’Gara’s rallying cry have been taken up by his Munster colleague Jerry Flannery, who was also in action four years ago when France suffered an astonishing collapse.

In total there are six survivors from the 2008 side and eight from 2006, while only O’Gara, John Hayes and Brian O’Driscoll remain from the team that triumphed 27-25 in 2000.

“The French are very strong at home and have had an edge over us but we’re trying not to let past results affect us mentally,” said Flannery.

“There are a lot of lads in the squad who haven’t had much to do with any results over there in last few years.

“We beat France last season to win our first Grand Slam for 61 years so if the history thing was pulling us back too much, we wouldn’t have got anywhere last year either.

“We’ve been guilty of letting France get ahead in the past so we want to make a good start.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we are chasing the game because they can be so dangerous. That’s the key.”