Paul O'Connell believes Irish provinces are going to have to learn to do more with fewer resources.

Speaking on RTÉ's Game On, O'Connell, who won 108 caps for Ireland, said that the recently announced IRFU deficit of €35.7 million means that Irish sides will have both smaller playing squads and smaller backroom teams.

Last month, the union's chief executive Philip Browne warned that the very future of the professional game here could be under threat without the return of supporters.

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And while O'Connell is confident that the pro game can continue in Ireland, he cautions that changes will probably have to take place in the structures of the provinces.

"A lot of the strides we've made, in terms of professionalism, are probably going to be reduced," he said.

"I heard Eddie Jones says that there's probably going to be a lot more generalist coaches now. We have an expert for everything - the breakdown, defence, attack, the scrum, the line-out, kicking.

"A lot of coaches are going to have to be able to throw their hand at everything. It'll be the same for strength and conditioning guys, and it'll probably be the same for players.

"Your squads are going to be smaller, so guys that can play three or four positions are probably going to be very important."

O'Connell was involved when Munster last tasted European success

All four Irish provinces are set to play in the expanded Heineken Champions Cup, with the draw having taken place yesterday.

While the competition is undoubtedly a source of income, O'Connell fears it will put an extra strain on smaller squads.

"There's a danger that a lot of academy players are going to end up playing rugby now before they're physically ready," he continued.

"That's a danger with the reduced funds that are available.

"I think for rugby to survive we need to get crowds back at the games. We've seen New Zealand do it. I'm not sure when we're going to be able to manage to do it.

"If we don't have them for the Six Nations it's going to be very tricky, and the rugby landscape in Ireland is going to change.

"I know Leinster are quite profitable (but) Munster struggled before this. So I can only imagine the situation they're in now."

On the pitch this weekend, Ireland's destiny is in their own hands.

They head to Paris knowing that a bonus point win over France will guarantee them the title for the fourth time in seven seasons.

Ireland's recent record against Les Bleus is impressive, with just one defeat since 2011. But scoring four tries in the French capital is another challenge altogether.

Andrew Trimble scored Ireland's fourth try in Paris in 2006

It's something the national side has managed just once back in 2006, and that day it was in a 43-31 defeat. 

Despite that, O'Connell says he's confident that Ireland can get the job done.

"I do fancy it actually," he admits.

"I think they will give opportunities to Ireland. They look very, very good at the moment, France. They look very physical, but their discipline is still quite poor.

"I think they'll give us plenty of penalties. I think Ireland won't kick many kicks at goal. The very easy ones, in front of the posts, we'll probably take.

"Anything that's kind of difficult we'll probably go to the corner. If the ruck is reffed - which it wasn't last weekend against Wales - if it's reffed hard we should get a lot of opportunities to attack France.

"I know we've never managed to score four tries there before and have a bonus point win but I think they will give us opportunities to do it.

"They're definitely improving, but they still have a lot of bad habits in their game as well."

Follow France v Ireland (8.05pm Saturday) with our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app or listen to live commentary on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1.