The streets across the stadium have been quiet the day earlier than the sport, however for those who listened fastidiously you may hear the crackle. It was there within the conversations on the espresso outlets, and between the youngsters chattering on the bus stops, it was within the snatches of speak radio coming from the open home windows of the cabs idling on the rank across the nook, and within the glimpses of the TV screens within the pubs alongside the Pembroke Street. “Dan Sheehan’s going to be an enormous miss for us.” “France are sure to be higher this week.” “At the very least Conor Murray’s enjoying.” “If we play the best way they did within the first half towards Wales ….” It’s solely going to get louder now. And by Saturday afternoon, will probably be deafening.
Each Take a look at match issues, however this one issues greater than most. It’s the primary time the 2 finest groups on this planet have performed one another within the Six Nations. Eire have been prime of the rankings since they beat New Zealand in Wellington final summer season. It’s a reward for a run of type through which they’ve crushed each staff within the prime 10 besides the one proper behind them in second place. France have gained the previous three video games between the groups, by eight in 2020, two in 2021, and 6 in 2023. Little doubt that Eire really feel they’ve one thing to show, to themselves as a lot as to everybody else. Being first doesn’t a lot matter if second is best.
“We practically acquired there in Paris final 12 months,” says the top coach, Andy Farrell, “however practically shouldn’t be adequate.” He says Eire discovered rather a lot about themselves in that defeat. The issue wasn’t technical, it had nothing to do with their defensive system, attacking setup or scrummaging. It was psychological. Farrell says they misplaced as a result of they didn’t impose themselves on the French. Plenty of what they’ve carried out since, he says, has been about ensuring they don’t make the identical mistake once more. “It’s about taking our sport to them,” he says, “it’s about the way you stroll ahead to satisfy no matter is in your approach. It’s important to go for it. Full on. Push yourselves on to the opposition.”
Eire have carried out some speaking about that defeat this week. “There’s been a little bit of thought going into it,” says the forwards coach, John Fogarty. “This time we need to be the easiest model of ourselves. We’re targeted on placing out a efficiency we will be happy with. We didn’t try this the final two instances we performed these guys.” In Paris final 12 months, Fogarty says, “we misplaced our approach a bit. We have been put underneath stress, and we didn’t take care of it, we went off script, began making an attempt to sort things on our personal. That was the large lesson from that match, and we’ve carried it into all of the video games we’ve performed since. So I’d prefer to suppose that we’re a distinct aspect now.”
It should assist that Johnny Sexton is enjoying, too. He missed final 12 months’s match with an harm. There’s a number of out this 12 months too. Sheehan’s harm is a blow, particularly on condition that they’re already lacking Tadhg Furlong. However they’re fortunate that Murray got here by means of. His father was badly injured in a motorbike accident earlier this week, and is in hospital present process emergency remedy. Understandably sufficient, it took a few days for Murray to determine he was in the appropriate mind set to play.
France have a number of accidents of their very own, and have been fairly lacklustre towards Italy final week. Farrell didn’t learn an excessive amount of into that match. “I nonetheless see the identical risks everywhere in the park, I nonetheless see them being laborious on the breakdown, I nonetheless see them being superb in damaged play, I nonetheless see them being aggressive with their line velocity, I nonetheless see their set piece as robust. And so they nonetheless discovered a strategy to win.” France have made a behavior of doing that. “What’s been very spectacular is their temperament,” he says, “they’ve acquired a plan A, B, C and perhaps a plan D as properly. They’ve at all times discovered a strategy to win within the final 12 months.”
In addition to, the French have been constructing in the direction of this one. “This one is a ultimate, towards one of many most interesting opponents we’ve got confronted,” says their head coach, Fabien Galthié. “With out offending all the opposite nations and particularly these from the southern hemisphere, Eire have been the most effective staff on this planet since final summer season. They went previous us and so they have held on to their prime spot within the rankings ever since, even regardless of our 14 consecutive victories, they’re in entrance of us.” France gained right here in 2021 – the final time anybody beat Eire in Dublin – however that was in the course of the pandemic, and the place was empty. It’s going to be a distinct proposition this 12 months.
France spent the week getting ready for it in Rome, as a result of that they had a six-day turnaround between the video games and didn’t need to waste time on travelling again to France. They’d lots to work on, particularly their self-discipline. They conceded 18 penalties towards Italy, twice as many as they often do in a Take a look at. Galthié mentioned they spent lots of time making an attempt to grasp what went unsuitable. Don’t financial institution on them making the identical errors once more.
Each France and Eire can win this match, each France and Eire can win this championship, and each France and Eire have it in them to turn out to be the good staff of this period. However solely certainly one of them will, and whoever it’s will solely do it by going by means of the opposite.