Video: Irish fury as IRB back under-fire referee Barnes ahead of Paris showdown
IRELAND have become embroiled in a war of words with rugby's governing bodies as they gear up for the daunting challenge of taking on World Cup finallists France in Paris tonight (8.0).
The IRB and Six Nations issued a joint statement yesterday backing referee Wayne Barnes' decision to award a penalty against Ireland's Stephen Ferris that led to the flanker's sin-binning and subsequent citing after the defeat to Wales last weekend.
It was a direct response to Ireland manager Mick Kearney's assertion that "the disciplinary panel itself felt that the decision to award a penalty was incorrect" when the charges against Ferris were dismissed on Wednesday.
While Ireland are comfortable with that stance, the fact it prompted such a pointed response by rugby's senior bodies is an unwelcome distraction ahead of tonight's match, particularly with Barnes acting as touch judge at Stade de France and Dave Pearson, who was the touch judge at the Aviva last weekend, refereeing.
Further disruption arrived with the news that Paddy Wallace has been called into the squad as cover for Jonathan Sexton, who tweaked a thigh muscle in kicking practice yesterday, with Ronan O'Gara ready to start if Sexton is ruled out.
It has been a tempestuous build-up for Ireland, who are attempting to win in Paris for only the second time in 40 years.
Yesterday, assistant coach Les Kiss said the team need to tap into their emotions to produce their best against France.
"We disappointed ourselves no end last week," said Kiss. "It's important that we breathe some fire, make some statements for ourselves and get back to what we are -- which is a tough team to beat.
"This is a huge battle on their turf and it's up to us to make sure we right some wrongs from last Sunday. Whether it's anger or the desire to put a few things right personally and as a team, everyone will use what emotion they need.
"They're a team that doesn't like opponents who bite at their heels continuously and that keeps coming at them," added Kiss.
"If you get a start on them and you keep your foot on their throat, they don't like that either. But they can create anything out of nothing and if we're loose at any point they'll punish us."
With Paris still in the grip of a freezing temperatures, doubts remain about the playing surface for tonight's encounter.
Last night, referee Pearson gave a provisional green light but there will be another inspection tonight, one hour and 15 minutes before kick-off. If the game is postponed, the refixture would likely be March 2.