Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

O'Connell Must Freeze out French If Ireland Are to End Misery in Paris

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

O'Connell Must Freeze out French If Ireland Are to End Misery in Paris

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent

[bar] RELAND captain Paul O'Connell must confirm his standing as the best second row in world rugby on Sunday if France are to be stopped from recording a 10th successive win at Stade de France and remain on course for the Grand Slam.

O'Connell, who wins his 85th cap in this rearranged match, has built on the reputation he gained as the Lions captain in South Africa in 2009 and will battle with Wales' Sam Warburton to take charge of the world's most famous touring team for next year's trip to Australia.

With France having taken care of Italy at home and Scotland away with performances of forward power, the Irish pack must stand toe-to-toe with the locals to try and achieve only the second Ireland win at Stade de France. The other success was a Brian O'Driscoll-inspired triumph in 2000 and you have to go back to 1972 for the only other Irish triumph in the French capital and that was at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir.

With O'Driscoll missing the entire championship due to a shoulder injury, it has fallen to O'Connell to provide the focal point and he was brilliant against Italy, who were hammered 42-10 in Dublin. When O'Connell carries the ball with ferocity, dominates the lineout and exudes menace, there are very few second rows who can match the Munster man.

Ireland will need all of O'Connell's fire and fury on Sunday because the French proved in Scotland that while their backs can be matched, Les Bleus' scrum is a potent weapon. It won crucial penalties as the Scots failed to handle the pressure and any weakness in tight-head Mike Ross's technique will be cruelly exploited.

O'Connell has already issued his rallying cry stating: "If we play to our potential we can beat anyone. But that's the challenge, making sure we play to our potential for the full 80 minutes so we can have that opportunity.

That is what we did in 2000 and have to get back to that level."

In their last five matches in Paris, Ireland have conceded an average of 36 points, proving how badly wrong it can go if France are let off the leash.

The injury to full-back Maxime Medard is a blow to France as he is a proven try scorer while his replacement, Clement Poitrenaud, is more prone to errors, although he can also run like the wind. …

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