France v Ireland, Six Nations, February 11
O'Connell demands improved performance
February 10, 2012
Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell saw his side suffer an agonising defeat to Wales last weekend © Getty Images
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has warned his side that they face more Six Nations woe against France unless they address the shortcomings evident in their opening defeat to Wales last weekend.
The agonising 23-21 defeat against the Welsh dashed Ireland's hopes of a Grand Slam and the Triple Crown with their title hopes now resting heavily on their Stade de France showdown on Saturday night. Wales won at the Aviva Stadium with a final-minute penalty that a Six Nations disciplinary hearing declared should never have been awarded, yet unconvincing Ireland also contributed to their own downfall.
O'Connell accepts that a repeat performance in the French capital, where they have won just once since 1972, will lead to ruin. "Our record in Paris is certainly a frustrating factor," said the Lions skipper. "You can't give France anything easily over there and that's what we did against Wales.
"We gave away easy yards and turned over possession too easily. That's nearly a blueprint for not winning in Paris. France gather momentum when they're playing well, so we can't afford to concede that momentum. We must be accurate and enthusiastic.
"It will be a massive challenge because they're an excellent side. They looked very good at times against Italy last weekend. But when you look at our team and the experience we have, we can certainly do it."
Ireland are braced for sub-zero conditions at the Stade de France tomorrow night with the temperature predicted to fall to minus seven by kick-off. France winger Vincent Clerc has declared there is "reason for concern", but coach Declan Kidney is reluctant to consider the ramifications of the weather at this stage.
"We've not discussed the temperature. We'll have to wait until we step off the plane and feel it," said Kidney. "It's one of those uncontrollables. We just have to work off the premise that it will be the same for them as it is for us."
Ireland have made one change with Keith Earls replacing Fergus McFadden at outside centre. Earls was named in the starting XV against Wales only to be withdrawn when his new-born baby girl was admitted into hospital with an unspecified illness.
The 24-year-old Munster back returned to the Irish camp at the start of the week and has replaced McFadden in the number 13 jersey. "It's tough on Fergus losing out because he did a good job for us on Sunday, but Keith is worthy of a start," said Kidney.
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