Ireland will seek to seal the Six Nations title and give the retiring Brian O’Driscoll a fitting send-off today with only their second win over France at Paris in 42 years.
Brian O’Driscoll says Ireland ‘have the capability to win in Paris’
Ireland will seek to seal the Six Nations title and give the retiring Brian O’Driscoll a fitting send-off on Saturday with only their second win over France at Paris in 42 years.
Ireland, England and the French enter the final round of matches all on six points.
The Irish have a far superior points difference to the other two, although the English have a chance of eating into that as they play pointless Italy.
O’Driscoll, who will bow out with a world-record 141 caps – including eight for the British & Irish Lions – will have worried the French after his strong performance in the 46-7 rout of Italy last Saturday, creating three tries.
The centre, 35, who has scored 47 Test tries, said it is unlikely he can repeat the feat he achieved at age 21 at the same Stade de France ground in 2000 when he scored three tries in Ireland’s only win in Paris since 1972.
However, he is confident he and his teammates can end a run of two successive draws between the teams.
“I feel we have the capabilities now of winning in Paris of course, more so now than other times we’ve gone over there,” O’Driscoll said.
“But I realise how tough a challenge it is; we’ve won once there in 42 years. It’s one win and one draw in 42.”
Coach Joe Schmidt, whose side have conceded just two tries, is worried by the wear and tear the campaign has taken on some of the players, especially the centre pairing of O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.
As a result, he has drafted in utility back Ian Madigan onto the replacements bench and left out fly-half Paddy Jackson.
If the Irish have revelled in positive headlines, exactly the opposite has been the case for the French.
A year ago they were criticised for winning only two of their 11 Tests, with one draw.
Now, they are being lambasted for their performances even when they win.
“If I have to be the scapegoat, then no problem,” said Philippe Saint-Andre, the France coach. “But let the players do their work.”
“But, seriously, we’re doing a lot better than last year at this point. Then we had three defeats and a draw, now we have three wins.”
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