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David Wallace: How Ireland can thwart French and snuff out threat of one man in particular

07 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
David Wallace: How Ireland can thwart French and snuff out threat of one man in particular

The Betway ambassador argues that lessons from Italy victory offer key to beating France and shares his insight on how to stop their playmaker

Although they were far from their best, Ireland should be pleased that Italy ran them so close last weekend.

The games against Canada and Romania never really forced them out of their shell in terms of intensity.

If they had taken part in another game full of open rugby where they were never put under any pressure then Ireland would be heading into Sunday’s game against France still stuck in third gear.

Instead, the tough examination by the Azzurri served as a wake-up call and helped to highlight the areas for Ireland to work on throughout the week.

The Italians were very dominant in the tackle and outmuscled Ireland at times, and they were able to stop us getting into our flow by disrupting the quick ball on which we are so dependent.

Ireland’s work at the breakdown will need to be much more efficient against France since we tend to break teams down with high-phase, high-intensity rugby that eventually gets us across the line rather than relying on making big breaks.

Paramount to that is holding onto possession – if you do not retain the ball then you cannot execute your game plan.

Against Italy we threw a lot of loose offloads that totally stifled our attacking play after making good inroads, but I expect us to be a lot more conservative and a little cuter on Sunday.mcgrath-carryIreland are far more comfortable going to deck and recycling the ball rather than offloading it, which bodes well against France who are a big side that can be outworked by taking them through the phases.

If Ireland can get their big ball carriers running hard at defenders then we can tie people into rucks and create more space out wide, particularly by targeting their centres.

Equally important to neutralising the dangerous French midfield is keeping Frederic Michalak under wraps.

As a former flanker who played against him many times, the only way to deal with fly-halves like Michalak is to close him down early enough so that he has no time to think about trying to make a break.

The speed of the defensive line is something that Ireland have improved a lot, but at the same time having too much momentum going into a tackle can make you easier to sidestep.

Ireland’s players cannot afford to give Michalak any space inside, and must back themselves to take him down when showing him the outside.

If they lose concentration for even half a second by thinking that he might look to make a pass then, make no mistake, he will go for it.

Given that the game is so important to both sides some people have expressed concern that France have had an extra three days to prepare, but that should not prove to be a problem.poc-restIreland have been very fortunate to have a schedule with matches from weekend to weekend which is a lot like the Six Nations and is perfect in keeping players simmering nicely – whereas sometimes having too much recovery time can see you go a little bit off the boil.

Although Ireland have not lost to France since before the last World Cup they will be aware that such a record will count for very little this weekend, as they will be facing a team with a very different mindset.

It is well-known both inside and outside the camp that France treat World Cups very differently – the global stage is where they like to perform and history shows that.

Whereas Six Nations campaigns can sometimes seem an inconvenience with players just thrown together from their clubs, this time the players have had two or three months together to build team spirit and perfect their game plan.

With France there is always that element of unpredictability, but that fear of the unknown will only help Ireland to raise their game.

Italy may have taken Ireland a little bit by surprise, but the jolt they provided should mean that we are ready for anything come Sunday.

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