Six Nations 2012 – France v Ireland preview
New France coach Phillipe Saint-Andre got off to a winning start last weekend as his side comfortably overcame Italy. However, it will be a tougher match for his team this weekend as the World Cup finalists welcome Ireland. Declan Kidney’s side are licking their wounds after a last-gasp home defeat to Wales, but can they secure their first win in France in over a decade?
France up and running with a comfortable win
Although Italy posed one or two problems for France in their opening Six Nations clash, Phillipe Saint-Andre’s side ended up running out comfortable winners at the Stade de France.
The new coach was pleased with the win but warned his team that they would have to improve against this weekend’s opponents. He said: “It’s good to win but there is a lot of room for improvement. We will have to play at another level against Ireland next week.
“On the plus side, we scored four tries, we were disciplined and we did not concede any try. On the negative side, we should gain more possession, we lacked aggression, especially at the beginning.”
France scored four well-taken tries in their 30-12 win including one each for centres Aurélien Rougerie and superb debutant Wesley Fofana and one for wing Vincent Clerc. I don’t expect France to make wholesale changes for this match but they may have to perform better than they did last time out.
Ireland looking to bounce back after mistakes cost them dear
It was a fantastic game of Six Nations rugby but Ireland will be ruing the mistakes that cost them victory over Wales at the Aviva Stadium. A last minute Leigh Halfpenny penalty gave Wales a win in a match where the lead changed hands five times.
Coach Declan Kidney believes that Ireland will have to take their chances in the rest of the tournament. After the defeat, he said: “It is extremely disappointing. We had a lead early in the second half but we did not build on it. When we do press ahead we have to go for the jugular. We are going to have to look at being more ruthless.”
Captain Paul O’Connell highlighted individual mistakes as the reason for Ireland’s defeat and the skipper believes it will be tough at the Stade de France this Saturday. He said: “Two mistakes, one by me and one by Stephen Ferris, cost us eight points. With five minutes to go, you would have fancied us to win it but we did not take the chance.
“It is going to be tough, the six-day turnaround for the France game. We have the quality and experience but have to put it together for 80 minutes and not play in fits and starts. You cannot do that against quality sides.”
You have to go back to 2000 for the last time Ireland won in Paris and the Irish have conceded 137 points in their last 4 matches in France. Indeed, the Irish have only won one of the last 12 fixtures against Les Bleus who have become something of a bogey team over recent years.
Considering there was a full programme of Top 14 rugby the week before their Six Nations opener, I think France did a terrific job in beating Italy. With an extra week of training and with their excellent home record I expect them to make it two wins out of two and take a step towards what could be a Grand Slam season.
Back France to overcome the 9 point handicap at 10/11.