Lievremont turns up heat ahead of Paris showdown
THE psychological battle is heating up ahead of Ireland's showdown against France in Paris on Saturday, with French coach Marc Lievremont yesterday saying he expects a conservative kicking game from the side he describes as "ogres."
Declan Kidney's side defeated France on the way to a Grand Slam last year, which led to Lievremont criticising their style of play as "boring" and not good for rugby. And yesterday, when announcing a team showing two injury-enforced changes to the side that won 18-9 in Murrayfield (Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson come onto the wings for Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall), Lievremont said Ireland were not as "spectacular" as Wales and he expected s conservative game-plan from the Irish.
"We think the Irish will kick a lot for territorial advantage and it will be interesting to use Alexis as a second full-back alongside Clement Poitrenaud," said Lievremont. "Considering the kicking game the Irish have, his left foot can help us clear our lines.
"Ireland are very well organised, they know when to slow the play down. They have an attention to detail and a pragmatism that reminds me of the Australian team," he added.
"They are less spectacular than Wales or the All Blacks, but play an incredibly efficient game, and have conceded the least penalties in the Six Nations for some time now. They will arrive in Paris with the appetites of ogres."
Earlier this week, Lievremont heaped pressure on Saturday's referee Wayne Barnes by claiming France were the victims of unfair decisions (ignoring the fact that no French player has been sin-binned in the last five Six Nations) and cited the penalty counts in the win over Scotland last weekend and in last year's defeat to Ireland.
Barnes refereed France to their famous World Cup quarter-final win over the All Blacks in 2007, becoming a hate figure in New Zealand after a string of contentious decision went in France's favour. And France forwards coach Didier Retiere has followed Lievremont's lead by saying Ireland benefited from some lax refereeing by Romain Poite in their 29-11 win over Italy last weekend, particularly in the scrum.
"I thought the Italians were hard done by the referee, Ireland should have been penalised much more," said Retiere. "In our eyes Italy were not sufficiently rewarded in the scrums, however we won't be taking the scrums lightly."
Ireland should have an update on Stephen Ferris today after a space was kept open for him in the back-row, allowing the Ulster man extra time to recover from the knee injury that ruled him out of the Italy match.