IT’S GAME DAY, rugby fans and they don’t come much bigger than a Saturday night against France in Paris (provided tonight’s game actually goes ahead; otherwise, it’ll be a night on the couch with Brendan O’Connor).
This time last week, Irish rugby fans were full of hope. The dream of a Grand Slam or Triple Crown was still alive, and the talk of revenge for Wellington was very much in the air, no matter how much we tried to downplay it.
This week, the atmosphere is very different. We are drinking in the last chance saloon, and with one just win to our names in Paris since 1972, the Stade de France is hardly our hostelry of choice.
Much has been said and written about the team and tactics that came up short against Wales in Dublin last weekend. Declan Kidney has kept faith in the team which he originally intended to name for that game, recalling Keith Earls at the expense of Fergus McFadden. The tactics are likely to be different, however, with Deccie promising a tighter kicking game and smarter work at the breakdown.
But no matter how smart and tight we get, France are still World Cup finalists and a formidable foe. New coach Philippe Saint-André is only adjusting to the role, but a four-try win at home to Italy last weekend didn’t exactly smack of beginner’s luck.
And, to make matters worse, there was last night’s news from the Ireland camp that Jonny Sexton is now an injury doubt, with Paddy Wallace flying out to join the squad as precautionary cover.
It’ll be tough, but this is a team as likely to pull out a repeat of their Australian heroics as they are to roll over and meekly surrender.
So come full time, how will we be feeling? Will it be “Paris, je t’aime”? Or “Forget Paris”?
Join us in the comments section and we’ll talk it all out between now and kick-off.
Check back at 7.30 this evening when we’ll be kicking off our minute-by-minute coverage of France v Ireland.