Cullen sounds Ireland rallying call
August 12, 2011
Cullen will lead Ireland for the second successive match on Saturday © Getty Images
Ireland lock Leo Cullen has called for his charges to raise their intensity ahead of Saturday's Test with France.
The match sees Ireland return to their base camp from the disastrous World Cup four years ago and will play at the Chaban-Delmas stadium which hosted two dismal pool matches against Namibia and Georgia. Ireland's confidence did not recover after making such a terrible start to the tournament and they failed to emerge from the group stage.
Four years on they have taken steps to avoid being undercooked once again by arranging a strenuous quartet of warm-up internationals. Tomorrow they face the first of two matches against France and Cullen, captain for a second successive week, knows there must be improvements following the 10-6 mauling by Scotland.
"We need to up our intensity for France, we must make them defend," said the Leinster second-row. "The team was a little bit quiet against Scotland and I think that's because of the fatigue.
"When you've got the fatigue in your legs and your body is tired, it feels unusual and mentally you're not as sharp. We're aware of that this week - in the heat of battle we want to be mentally sharp.
"When we're in attack mode, we need to have that mindset. Defensively we looked very comfortable for most of the game against Scotland. One of the big things for us has been working on the shape of our attack and that will be easier if we have more ball.
"We have more experienced players this week and the game is easier when you're playing on the front foot. We struggled to put Scotland though a number of phases but this week we have some good ball carriers."
Ireland have picked a more robust team for the first encounter of their double header against France, opposition they have beaten just once since 2003. The pack contains five players likely to start the World Cup opener against the USA on September 11, while Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip feature on the bench.
Les Bleus are a particularly tough assignment when they play in the south of the country and coach Marc Lievremont has named a formidable XV including Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy. Cullen, however, believes all the pressure will be on the home team to produce.
"France have picked an experienced team, but any French team will be competitive," he said. "The depth they have over there is far greater than we'll ever have. They have massive quality throughout. There will be a fair amount of pressure on France as they're playing at home.
"That has a certain responsibility from their point of view, so we'll have to counteract what they produce at the start. Everyone's looking for the same things from these warm-up games.
"We're trying different combinations, getting game time under our belts and building momentum for the World Cup. Sometimes people make a lot out of these games.
"It's hard to know what to think about them - we'll probably look back and then judge how important they were."
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