Full-back Luke Fitzgerald insist Ireland must rectify the mistakes of last week’s RBS 6 Nations opener to overcome France at the Aviva Stadium.
Luke Fitzgerald, whose only previous cap against the French came during the 2009 Grand Slam campaign, is hoping Ireland can recapture the form which saw them run out 30-21 winners over France two years ago.
“The last time we won against them (at Croke Park), two years ago, what we really did was we really went at them,” he said.
“We really challenged them and their defence. You can’t sit back against these guys, they’ll just kill you. So we’re going to go at them and try and stretch them.
“That is the brand of rugby we want to play, that expansive style. We probably should be able to achieve that once we are a lot more clinical then we were last week.”
Ireland will want to put last year’s bitter experience in Paris behind him, when it took 67 minutes for Ireland to muster a try. Fitzgerald, who missed that 33-10 defeat through injury, knows how explosive the French back-line can be.
“France’s handling in their outside backs is exceptional, so if we give them those opportunities again they will definitely take advantage.”
Despite France playing some impressive attacking rugby against Scotland last weekend, they were also guilty of giving up soft tries to the Scots.
‘Clinical’ was the buzz word after events in Rome, and Fitzgerald knows Ireland will simply have to convert their chances against the defending Six Nations champions.
“Anytime you play against a French team it is always a really enjoyable game from an outside backs’ perspective.
“Opportunities do open up and they play with a bit of flair as well, so if there is turnover ball, opportunities should be there for us. If we are clinical enough on the inside hopefully we will be able to get our hands on the ball a bit more.
“From what we’ve seen of them against Australia in the autumn and Scotland last week, there will be chances.
“Some of the guys who made mistakes against Italy will never make those mistakes again. When we hit our purple patch, it’s very important to take our chances.
“There are times you’re going to be really stretched. It’s how you adapt to those tough situations that will be very important.
“I’m hoping we can do that too because that’s the brand of rugby we want to play – an expansive style. We definitely should be able to achieve that as long as we’re a bit more clinical than we were last week.”
Ask any international player, and these are the sort of games they want to be involved in. The first Championship match at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road and a big opportunity to beat the current holders of the Six Nations title.
And while emphasising the need to improve in attack, Fitzgerald also spoke about the importance of defending well against les Bleus. Ireland have not kept the French tryless since 2003.
“They have quality all over the park and especially in the pack. They seem to have a lot of ball players, guys like (Imanol) Harinordoquy and (Julien) Bonnaire are very good going forward.
“They will challenge you and at times you will be stretched but it is how we react in those situations is what is important.
“We’d love to have a big defensive performance against them because they’re a very tough team to defend against. That would be really important for us, confidence wise, to be able to get one over on them in that aspect.”
This game will only be the second time Fitzgerald has played in an Irish back-three with Fergus McFadden and Keith Earls and he feels that given time, the young trio will grow as a combination.
“I think the more time we get together the more comfortable we’ll be. The lads gave me great support at the weekend. Their positioning was fantastic and made my job an awful lot easier,” he added.
“It would be lovely to see our attack come together and really be clinical if we do get opportunities. That would be great.”