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O’Driscoll Targets Strong Start

O’Driscoll Targets Strong Start

Brian O’Driscoll believes Ireland can rectify the mistakes of the Italy game and conquer reigning RBS 6 Nations champions France at the Aviva Stadium.

“I stand by what I said last weekend in that parts of our shape was really good and we managed to create a huge amount. If that was the part of our game we really struggled with, we would be a bit worried this week, but it wasn’t,” said Brian O’Driscoll, at Wednesday’s team announcement.

“It was just the small things, looking after the ball, the quality of the pass and that can be easily corrected. We have to make sure we work as hard as we did last week and try and hold onto our shape as much as possible and bring the French through phases.

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“Hopefully again we will get a few mismatches and with a bit of luck we will a bit more clinical this weekend and take our opportunities.”

O’Driscoll, who is one try shy of the Championship record of 24, believes that despite the intricacies that accompany the refereeing of the scrum, Ireland must not get bogged down in concentrating on that alone.

“You can’t get too hung up on it. There is plenty of other aspects of our game that we have to practice on. Particularly from a back-line point of view, it’s a great attacking platform if you get a good scrummage.

“But it’s been so up in the air the last while that you have to work hard on other aspects of your game, like your counter attack and your phase play stuff.

“You can’t be guaranteed that scrum ball is going to come to the number 8’s feet and you are going to be able to play off it.

“It is a bit frustrating from our point of view, but there is nothing really you can do about it – just keep hammering away and as Declan (Kidney) alluded to, any scrum ball that we do get make sure we put that to good use.”

In parts of their opening round win over Scotland, France played some impressive-free flowing rugby and O’Driscoll, in his 12th Six Nations campaign, knows just what Marc Lievremont’s men are capable of.

“Looking at some of our analysis, France can cut teams open in the blink of an eye. They seem very comfortable in their own shape and in what they are doing.

“They have a lot of ball players and guys who aren’t afraid to play with big width and take chances. It makes for a very open game and all going well, we will be able to match that brand and hopefully make it pretty entertaining.”

Ireland’s thrilling 30-21 victory over France during their Grand Slam run stands out as their only win over les Bleus in the sides’ last nine meetings.

O’Driscoll would dearly love to turn the tables on the French again, 11 years after his famous hat-trick of tries at the Stade de France.

“There is a certain amount of analysis done on anyone, but like yourselves you like to think you keep something in the bank that teams haven’t seen before. Personally, I have been playing against them for the past number of years, so unpredictable loses its unpredictability after a while.

“You are playing international rugby because you’re smart enough footballer to read the situations you find yourself in.

“You are never going to have two games the exact same or two parts of the game that are the exact same. You just have to read what is in front of you and adjust accordingly.

“That is why players are picked to play at this level. That is the difference between them and guys who never get to play international rugby.”

The 32-year-old feels that with better ball protection and more intelligent use of possession, Ireland can move up a few gears from last week’s Six Nations opener in Rome.

“I think the errors last week, a huge amount of them, were down to individuals. Sure there was a bit of pressure put on and ball lost in contact, but at the same time the guy in possession has to look after the ball.

“It’s of the utmost importance and when you know you’re not going to score yourself, it is about trying to recycle and make sure you score off the next phase or the one after that. We didn’t do that.

“We probably lost our patience and tried to score early at times and thought we were getting over the line when we weren’t. Definitely it is something we have thought about collectively and individually this week.

“Maybe there was a component of the Italians putting pressure on us, but I think the big onus is on ourselves too.

I know myself, the couple of errors that I made, they might be uncharacteristic but they happen and you go about trying to work on it this week.

“You go about trying to put that right the next time you put on the jersey. That happens to be this weekend, so hopefully you are extra concentrated on those few slip-ups you might have had.”

With that hard-fought 13-11 win over Italy behind them, O’Driscoll now believes Ireland need to push on against France or face defeat in their first Championship encounter at the Aviva Stadium.

“Two years ago at Croke Park, I think we played pretty well against the French. I think you just can’t expect to have a slow start (to the Championship) and then get going.

“If we start slowly this weekend, we will get torn apart. Sometimes you have to play with that fear factor that gets you out of the blocks pretty early.”