Friday 9 December 2016

France are mentally fragile - Girvan Dempsey

Published 09/02/2016 | 02:30

Cian Healy goes thrnster's Cian Healy
Cian Healy goes thrnster's Cian Healy

A six-day turnaround in international rugby is tough at the best of times but after a bruising encounter with a hugely physical Wales side, a trip to Paris wouldn't be high on the list of preferred next destinations.

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Home advantage as well as an extra day's rest could well be crucial for Guy Noves' new-look France but they are still extremely vulnerable.

Throughout his 10-year international career, Girvan Dempsey was involved in enough games against France to know the scale of the challenge that faces Joe Schmidt's side on Saturday but it's not one that they will fear.

Italy exposed plenty of weaknesses last weekend, while Ireland's win over France at the World Cup will still be fresh in the memory.

Dempsey doesn't believe that France have changed drastically under Guy Noves and he expects Ireland to be able to capitalise on their weaknesses more than Italy did.

"I think so," Dempsey replied when asked if France were still mentally fragile. "They're still a very new squad. They're still gelling. They'll improve. I still think there are a lot of weaknesses that can be exposed.

"The Italians were excellent at what they did. A bit more composure and they could have won that game. France, no doubt, will improve this week and they have that extra day in terms of recovery.

"It is going to be a big challenge for Ireland to try and get that recovery and get guys back on their feet, up to speed and back on the field as quickly as possible. It (Stade de France) is an incredible stadium, a brilliant atmosphere.

"It has always been the case over the years that if you can get off to a good start and don't allow France get off to a good start, you're halfway to winning the game.

Claw

"If the French get their tails up, once they get a lead, it's always hard to claw it back in Paris."

For Fergus McFadden, a player who was on Ireland's standby list for the World Cup, being forced to again watch from the periphery has been tough but he hasn't ruled out the possibility of getting back into Schmidt's plans before the end of the tournament.

McFadden last played for Ireland in the World Cup warm-up win in Wales and a recent three-week ban for stamping didn't help his case for inclusion in the 35-man squad.

"I was happy with my form leading up to my ban," McFadden maintained.

"I had a nice run of games and it was just unfortunate timing for me coming into some important games for Leinster and probably an important block for guys who were going to get picked for the Six Nations as well.

"Leading up to that I was pretty happy so it's just about getting more game time during this period and try get a bit of momentum back personally.

"He (Schmidt) just said that I wasn't picked for the first two weeks. This is the second week of it now. After this week, we'll see what happens.

"I hope the lads go great with Ireland but at the moment when I'm back here with Leinster, all I'm worried about is putting ourselves in a position pick up as many points as possible during this important period with the lads away.

"I suppose at this stage, I'm one of the more experienced guys during these stints. Anything that I can add to the group, that's basically what I'm looking to do."

"Listen, when you're just back with your club, you're just trying to put your best foot forward.

"If that has a knock on effect and you end up getting picked for Ireland on the back of it, then great."

Irish Independent

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