by Conor O’Shea
Reflecting on the weekend, we got exactly what we expected and the feeling is the same as it always is after the Italian game: it was messy, it was physical and we couldn’t get quick ball.
What is nice to see is that the players and the coaching staff weren’t happy with the performance but they were also realistic about it. The Italians made it difficult with their gameplan.
What happens next – as we saw on Sunday in Murrayfield – is that the level will step up five or six notches in Paris. France look incredibly physical around the breakdown and even against a good Scottish scrum they were very powerful. That front row will provide a very stern examination.
However, Scotland had opportunities and from Ireland’s point of view if we can play at a good tempo there will be space on offer. We have to hope that the French defend the same way they did on Saturday against us. The defence is good in terms of its press but it does get disjointed and we can take advantage.
But our record in Paris is terrible and it will be a monumental examination.
I think the template for winning the type of game we will get in Paris will never change for any Declan Kidney team: when they come under pressure they roll with the punches and then come out fighting.
Looking at the selection debates, you can never second guess what Declan Kidney will do and you have to say that the massive competition for places is a massive advantage.
Ireland - Ronan O'Gara likely to keep 10 shirt
You would think Ronan O’Gara will hold onto the out-half place but it is unlikely Stephen Ferris will be fit. Leo Cullen will challenge very strongly to hold onto a place in the second row because the Irish lineout destroyed Italy on Saturday.
Inside centre is interesting. Paddy Wallace made a good contribution at out-half when he came on but against the sheer size of their backs – players like Yannick Jauzion, Matthieu Bastareaud, and Aurelien Rougerie – Kidney may opt to stick with Gordon D’arcy. Do we want a ball playing 12? It’s not quite fair to say that Gordon D’Arcy is not a ball player but there are different qualities both of them have.
In the back three, hopefully Rob Kearney will return to the form we all know he has. He was off his game but we all know he is a world class performer. I think Andrew Trimble gets a lot of grief for his performance against France in the Rugby World Cup a couple of years ago he was more a centre playing on the wing in those days.
Now, he is a wing and is playing there week in week out for his province and I thought he played pretty well although Keith Earls came on looked pretty sharp as well. With Kidney, you never know. He could easily decide to throw Shane Horgan in there.
The key factor is that this could a game that will loosen up as it goes on. It will be physical to begin with so it may be that Kidney goes for D’Arcy and Trimble in his starting XV. But France looked they were tiring late on against Scotland and if that happens players like Paddy Wallace and Keith Earls can have a real impact as the game wears on.
It will be very tough, but I think we are capable of doing something over there.