Ireland v France, Six Nations, Dublin, February 13
Fitzgerald to face France head-on
February 10, 2011
Luke Fitzgerald will not back down against France © PA Photos
Ireland fullback Luke Fitzgerald has called on his team-mates to challenge France's free-flowing style head on at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.
A day after Declan Kidney urged his players to show the courage to take the Six Nations champions on at their own game, Fitzgerald has echoed his coach's call.
"Two years ago when we beat France in Dublin we really went at them, challenged them and their defence," he said. "You can't sit back against these guys. If you do they'll just kill you. We're going out with the mindset that we want to stretch them.
"Hopefully we can do that because that's the brand of rugby we want to play, an expansive style. It's going to be a tight match. I've only played against them once and I was lucky to be on the right side of the result that time. France is always an enjoyable match, especially from an outside back's point of view because opportunities do open up."
In recent months Ireland have adapted a more open gameplan and the teething problems evident during the autumn were still apparent against Italy last Saturday when they needed a Ronan O'Gara drop goal two minutes from time to prevail 13-11.
Fitzgerald knows there will also be opportunities against France, who dazzled in a 34-21 victory over Scotland last weekend, and has implored his team-mates to capitalise on them.
"We want a better performance, especially in defence because France are tough to defend against," he said."To get one over them in that aspect would be really important for us confidence-wise. Defensively it's very important for us to spoil and slow down their ball because if they do get quick ball they're hard to stop, especially when they get some momentum up.
"From what we've seen of them against Australia in the autumn and Scotland last week, there will be chances. When we hit our purple patch it's very important to take our chances. It would be good to see our attack come together and be clinical.
"Some of the guys who made mistakes against Italy will never make those mistakes again. It's very important that we get it right this week for our confidence levels."
In a late addition to the Ireland squad, scrum-half Peter Stringer was called up on Thursday night as precautionary cover for Tomas O'Leary who has a back complaint. O'Leary has had restricted training this week due to a stiff back, but the symptoms have not improved leading to the decision to call up Stringer as backup in the event O'Leary does not recover.
Stringer was due to take part in Munster's Magners League game this weekend, but he will now remain with the Ireland squad until Sunday.
Team Manager Paul McNaughton said, "Tomas has had a stiff back which has not sufficiently improved over the course of the week, so we felt it was prudent to call Peter up to remain with the squad. Tomas is not ruled out of the game, but we will wait and see how he progresses over the next 48 hours before making any decisions on changes to the match 22."
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