Ireland’s 46-7 win over Italy may be fresh in the mind, but Eoin Reddan knows Saturday’s victory will count for little if they do not back it up with another performance against France.
Eoin Reddan replaced the injured Conor Murray in the first half and after France’s narrow 19-17 success at Murrayfield, next Saturday’s Stade de France showdown is likely to decide the destination of the Six Nations title.
“We know we’ve got to deliver next week and that’s been said in the dressing room already,” said Reddan in the aftermath of the Italy game.
“I’d be confident that we will show up. Obviously France might show up as well, but I’d be confident that we’ll get our stuff right.”
Ireland lead the Championship table due to their superior scoring difference and the Limerick man insists the mentality was to try and blitz the Italians.
Despite the strong Italy defence, closing quarter tries from replacements Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath helped Joe Schmidt’s men to a 39-point triumph.
“I think the theory today was just to go as hard as you can for as long as you can. There was no target or anything – if we went that hard and only won by three, then we would have moved on and deal with that.
“We’ll see tomorrow (after England and Wales play), but hopefully we have enough points to focus just on winning next week.”
Ireland’s task against the Azzurri was made easier by the enduring class of Brian O’Driscoll who, in his world record-breaking 140th cap, was instrumental in everything Ireland produced until his substitution on the hour mark.
Reddan feels that the Irish squad now need to show their respect for the retiring O’Driscoll by putting in a Championship-winning performance in Paris.
“The players have to deliver their respect next week in terms of delivering for him. It was something special definitely and it was right to celebrate it,” he said of O’Driscoll’s last home match for Ireland.
“These moments can pass you by if you don’t. When the chance is there, you should definitely take it.
“The players have to deliver and give him a pat on the back in a different way. That’s being the man beside him next week and delivering massively so that he does have a proper and well-deserved send-off.”
And while Ireland may be in pole position to give O’Driscoll a title-winning conclusion, Reddan warned about getting ahead of the challenge that awaiting Joe Schmidt’s men in round 5.
“Temptation is there today for people externally from the group to go over the top on a polished performance and install us promptly as favourites on Monday morning.
“I don’t think that would be right at all. We’ve won once in Paris in 40 years or so, and that makes it a tough weekend.
“We were a bit loose carrying the ball (against Italy). We got stripped a few times, so I’m sure we’ll be working on that.
“Italy showed how dangerous they can be when you are stripped – they went half the length of the pitch for their try. France will be similar to that if we lose those balls,” added the Leinster scrum half.
Ireland laid down a marker against New Zealand in November which the players have built on. But the proof of whether Schmidt’s side are now Championship winners-elect will be seen in their finale in Paris.
Their strength in depth is key states Reddan, and those tries scored by three replacements are testament to that.
He also knows that Ireland need to keep improving and need to finish the tournament stronger than they started it, an aspect seen in all trophy-winning teams.
“The key about winning tournaments is that you need to be playing better at the end that you did at the start. That’s a challenge for us.
“Our best performance needs to come next week and that needs to come in a variety of different areas – first phase, phase play, ball carries, cleaning-out rucks. They need to be the best they’ve been.
“If you look at World Cups or Heineken Cups, the team that wins it have improved from the start…otherwise teams catch you.
“They see you every week, they learn how to live with you, so we’ll have to be better and different than we were today next week.
“We gave ourselves a chance for next week and have a very, very tough game away to France who are a top international team. It’s going to be a very tough day.”