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Kidney’s Men Ready For French Test

Kidney’s Men Ready For French Test

Jamie Heaslip has recovered from an ankle injury to take his place in the Ireland team to face France. He trained successfully on Tuesday and Wednesday and Declan Kidney insists the Naas man is ‘ready to go.’

“Jamie is looking forward to it. Any guy who has been out for a couple of weeks will always look forward to getting back in it,” said head coach Declan Kidney, at Wednesday’s team announcement.

“There is always a little bit of trepidation if you are in the middle, week in, week out, playing every week. It comes a little bit differently to you when you have been out for a couple of weeks.

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“You are going to have different emotions, but the overall one is that he is looking forward to getting back on the field.”

The back row will be a key area for Ireland on Sunday, with Kidney explaining that the highly-regarded French combination of Thierry Dusautoir, Julien Bonnaire and Imanol Harinordoquy will bring more than just physicality to the game.

“I felt the physicality of the Italians last week was going to be such that we needed to stop them on the front line and I thought the three lads (Denis Leamy, David Wallace and Sean O’Brien) were well able to do that for us.

“They had a lot of carries. There wasn’t a whole lot of space and there is not going to be a lot of space on Sunday. The French will close you down, so you need to give it that mixture.

“There is a huge footballing ability in Harinordoquy and Dusautoir. They all have a huge footballing skill as well as physicality, so I wouldn’t brand them down in one way like that.

“You saw them (France) play against Scotland. They are all good footballers and that is what you need out of your back row as well too. Not just fellas who will hoof it up but fellas who will offload as well.

“There were times the last day when we offloaded probably to people not in better positions then the ball carrier. That co-ordination that comes with playing together takes a little bit of time to bed in and that is why we have gone with by and large the same team.”

Two years ago, France’s visit to Dublin brought about a magnificent performance from Ireland which set them on the road to a memorable Grand Slam success.

Tries that day from Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy saw the 2009 Championship burst into life for Kidney’s charges.

Sunday sees the return of Six Nations rugby to Lansdowne Road, with a capacity crowd expected at the Aviva Stadium. It is a huge occasion, but at the very heart of it is an Irish coach backing his side to play to their potential and get a result.

“France are a hugely powerful side. They have a strong set piece. Their scrum is strong. They have good lineout options,” added the Corkman.

“They are good at phase play because they are all ball handlers. The backs they have – a 10, 12 and 13 who are all very good footballers and also very big men and they have picked a back-three to counter attack.

“French rugby, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but they do have their 14 professional teams. We have four.

“You are playing one of the best sides in the world. We can just concentrate on ourselves, what we need to get ourselves right and have the courage to go out and play.

“These fellas, as I have said earlier, are hugely self-critical and sometimes they just need to relax, trust themselves and just go out and play. That is what I am hoping they can do on Sunday.”