Wednesday 28 September 2016

Pascal Pape: Facing Jamie Heaslip is not a problem

Published 10/10/2015 | 16:46

Pascal Pape, pictured, goes head-to-head with Jamie Heaslip again on Sunday
Pascal Pape, pictured, goes head-to-head with Jamie Heaslip again on Sunday

Pascal Pape remains unfazed by facing Jamie Heaslip for the first time since kneeing Ireland's number eight in the back in a challenge inflicting fractured vertebrae.

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France's bullish lock was banned for 10 weeks for his crude challenge on Heaslip in Ireland's 18-11 RBS Six Nations victory on Valentine's Day.

The 35-year-old may not play again in the Six Nations if he retires from Test rugby as planned after the World Cup, but will lock horns with Heaslip again in Sunday's Pool D decider in Cardiff.

Stade Francais second row Pape intends to focus on guiding France to a victory that would line up Argentina in the quarter-finals and leave Ireland facing New Zealand.

"It's not a concern for me, or for him probably," said Pape when asked about renewing hostilities with Heaslip.

"I don't know how to take the question, it's not important for me. It wasn't a problem."

Pape pleaded guilty to the offence and had his ban reduced by five weeks for showing remorse, tweeting Heaslip to apologise.

Leinster loose-forward Heaslip accepted the apology by responding to Pape on social media, showing humility despite a nasty injury.

"I apologised, he accepted that and we moved on," said Pape. "I'll just work hard for the team.

"There are plenty of engagements and collisions in matches. I expect fierce competition with lots of physicality but no problems."

France fly-half Frederic Michalak vowed not to fret too much about hounding Johnny Sexton, admitting he would let attack-dog flanker Thierry Dusautoir worry about that instead.

Les Bleus have unashamedly placed a target on Sexton's back this week for the third time in succession.

Philippe Saint-Andre's men know that to stop Sexton is to stop Ireland, and will again send freight-train centre Mathieu Bastareaud straight down his channel at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

"He's a great player, he's had two years in France so I've played against him a number of times," said Michalak of Sexton.

"I'll concentrate on the French team though, I can't worry about him particularly - I'll leave that to Thierry!"

France will play their first World Cup match at the Millennium Stadium since their superlative 20-18 victory over New Zealand in the 2007 quarter-finals.

The French clung on at the death with the All Blacks squandering numerous chances to drop for goal, desperate not just to win but to do so in style.

Dusautoir scored a try and set a World Cup-record 38 tackles in a monumental shift in that last-eight battle, but downplayed any chances of a repeat performance against Ireland on Sunday.

France have failed to beat Ireland in their last four meetings and even the inspirational Dusautoir admitted he would not put any big money on Saint-Andre's men.

"Eight years has passed since that great match here, so a lot has changed" said Dusautoir.

"It's not a quarter-final, it's not the same, but it's massively important for us.

"We've got to front up to Ireland in order to succeed. We've got to play our best rugby to win but we can't be thinking about repeating the past, it's a different scenario.

"It's true that we haven't beaten Ireland in four years but we had two draws, that I remember well. And the two defeats were very close.

"I hope that tomorrow we will have the arguments to win the game. I wouldn't gamble on the French team but I think we can change the story tomorrow on the pitch."

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