As a paper dedicated exclusively to rugby, Midol has plenty to say about tomorrow’s game. The front page carries a photo of fullback Brice Dulin and calls on the French team to “Sortez le grand jeu!” – to bring out their best form.
Pages two and three are dedicated to “the calm after the storm,” pointing out that this week has been the first in which Philippe Saint-André’s position as head coach has come under real scrutiny.
Journalist Pierre-Laurent Gou reveals that France have spent considerable time on the Marcoussis training ground working on their counter-attacking this week, strengthening an already impressive facet of their game.
On page six, les Bleus‘ forwards coach Yannick Bru outlines the hours his men have put in at the line-out, an area of real weakness against Scotland last weekend. Much of that training has involved video analysis, picking apart Ireland’s set-up and their own.
Next comes a two-page dossier dedicated to the technical elements of the clash, with Arnaud Beurdeley warning of the strength of the Irish maul and the power the scrum. Nicolas Zanardi also highlights ‘the Schmidt special’ – the move from which Ireland scored the Rob Kearney try against England.
There is also advice for France to be wary of the choke tackle, to maintain their discipline and to be quicker at getting the ball away from rucks when they attack.
Tribute is paid to Gordon D’Arcy with a half-page article and full-length photo under the headline ‘The Alter Ego’ – referring to the lack of fanfare for the man who has been integral to Brian O’Driscoll’s success in the centre.
Jérôme Prevot calls D’Arcy a “cult” player and a “hidden pearl”, while stressing that the inside centre has been vital for the man often found outside him in Irish colours.
The final article in Midi Olympique‘s 12-page coverage of the game explores the impact of John Plumtree, a man “nourished at the breast of South African rugby” who has “beefed up” the Irish pack this season.
The Kiwi has “reinvigorated an Irish pack that we had said was aging and worn out,” according to Jérôme Fredon.
The daily sports paper’s front page is dominated by football as ever, but the rugby headline in the top right corner reads “Finally Fickou!” The fact that Midi Olympique have also run a lengthy article on the 19-year-old illustrates the excitement over his inclusion.
The rugby coverage is all the way back on page 18 under the headline “A last gamble,” alluding to Saint-André’s decision to bring in Fickou in the centre and Rémi Talès at out-half for the clash with Ireland.
The Toulouse midfielder “faces two legends” in midfield, writes Pierre Michel Bonnot, before warning that throwing Fickou into the fray for such a high-profile game may end up proving to be something of a “trap” for his longer-term development.
Louis Picamoles is interviewed underneath and stresses that his dropping after sarcastically applauding referee Alain Rolland against Wales is behind him; “it’s something I won’t be doing again.”
There are doubts over Talès’ inclusion in the starting team, with former France international Jean-Patrick Lescarboura outlining his belief that “a number 10 should kick.”
The final article is focused on Schmidt’s coaching style, tagging him as “le prof parfait” – the perfect teacher. Journalist Aurélian Bouisset speaks to Bernard Jackman and Oyonnax lock Andrew Browne [formerly of Leinster] about the qualities of the Ireland head coach, who is “demanding but generous.”
This morning’s edition of Le Parisien also dedicates a full page to the clash at the Stade de France, most of which is focused on the negatives of les Bleus‘ campaign so far. Olivier François details how Saint-André’s side have lacked a game plan, general coherence, a clear philosophy and influential leaders.
There is an interesting quote from the head coach himself after a week of almost-constant criticism; “I am not spiteful, but I have a memory.” The suggestion is that Saint-André feels he can turn the situation around and will not forget his critics when he does.
The message from the players themselves is that they must focus on enjoying the game, with Talès saying “we couldn’t be any worse than we were against Scotland.”
Possibly not the most confidence-inspiring statement of intent, but the out-half claims his experience of playing against Leinster twice this season is an aid for him personally.