Kidney demands belief
March 3, 2012
Paul O'Connell and Declan Kidney talks to the press in France © Getty Images
Declan Kidney has declared only a refusal to be intimidated by their appalling record in Paris will enable Ireland to humble France on Sunday.
The Irish face Philippe Saint-Andre's unbeaten side after their original Six Nations showdown, scheduled for February 11, was postponed shortly before kick-off due to a frozen pitch. Returning to Paris has revived discussion of their extraordinary lack of success in the French capital, consisting of one win in four decades.
It is hard to fathom how a team that has performed so well since the championship was expanded has repeatedly suffered at the hands of France, losing 11 of the last 12 meetings. Kidney stressed that only self-belief will enable Ireland to master the physiological damage incurred by their litany of past failures.
"Sometimes we think that we have to do something different when we don't. We've done that before, be it at home or away," the head coach said. "Like France do when they come out with their 'A' game any time they are playing in Paris, we just need to come out with ours too.
"Instead of trying to pull something special out of the bag, we need to concentrate and believe in ourselves. If we believe in ourselves we can get a good result. Obviously we can't dictate how well France are going to play, we can only put them under pressure to make sure that they don't play too well. If we play our own game, it's more than possible to get a result."
Of Ireland's 22 selected for tomorrow, only substitute fly-half Ronan O'Gara was involved in the 27-25 victory at the Stade de France 12 years ago. Captain Paul O'Connell has felt the pain of past defeats as much as anyone following five unsuccessful visits to Paris, but he refused to dwell on the record.
"It's a box I'd love to tick. It is a really hard place to come and win," the Munster and Lions lock said. "France in Paris are a different creature really, an incredibly tough side. They seem to save their best rugby for here, particularly their best counter-attacking rugby. I've had enough attempts at beating them here. It has always been a struggle. It's something I'd love to do. We've spoken about how in the past certain things have hurt us over here.
"Apart from that there hasn't been a whole lot mentioned of the record. I don't think we're too held down by the baggage. We have a really good group of players that are well used to going away from home and winning.
"We may not have done it internationally against France in Paris yet, but we're well used to going away from home and winning. You look at one or two of our performances in the World Cup last autumn, certainly against Australia. It was a good performance and a good barometer for us to have."
O'Connell highlighted the importance of producing a strong start with Ireland having made a habit of handing France unassailable leads in recent years.
"Tomorrow we just need to make sure we do the simple things well and don't do what Ireland teams have done in the past and give France a leg-up. That's the main thing," he said. "That is what teams do here. They kill you off turnovers, they kill you off counter-attack. We must give them as few half chances as we can. That's what's hurt us in the past here."
Official figures suggest only 2,500 travelling supporters are expected in Paris for the rearranged fixture. The French Rugby Federation have insisted the stadium will be full, however, ensuring Ireland will play in front of a partisan home crowd.
"It would be great to have more fans over here, but we've played in hostile environments in the past, with Ireland and the provinces," O'Connell said. "It's something we're well used to. If you want to be successful in any tournament you must win in hostile environments. Hopefully we'll be able to do that again."
France skipper Thierry Dusautoir believes that Ireland will represent their biggest test of the tournament so far, and vowed to treat them as a genuine threat. The Toulouse flanker also revealed that Les Bleus had taken double homework on their opponents following the postponement of the original fixture.
"This is our first real test when you see the level of Ireland at the moment," he said. "You run on to the pitch knowing you are going to play a really good team. We have had to prepare for this match twice and we have been able to witness their approaches to the ruck and tackling. These areas will demand a lot of us. We must be ultra-determined.
"With England and Wales to come, the fixture list in this year's tournament shows that each match requires us to up our level of play. However, all I'm thinking of is tomorrow as we have enough on our plates there to occupy our minds and our bodies."
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