'They were a little softer than usual'- Dave Kearney unimpressed by French defence
There were shades of the buccaneering France of old as they ran in three sumptuous tries against Italy last weekend, but their defence left much to be desired and Ireland winger Dave Kearney believes it to be an area Ireland can exploit in Paris on Saturday.
If there was one stark contrast between the respective performances of Ireland and France in opening round of the 2016 Six Nations, it was their attitude to defending.
On Saturday in front of an expectant crowd at the Stade de France, there was clear indications of the attacking flair France will bring under Guy Noves, yet their defensive line-speed was near non-existent as an Italian side with limited creative nous got over the whitewash twice.
France allowed the Italians seven line breaks and missed 15 tackles which, even at this early stage of the Noves era, must be deemed unacceptable. Had Sergio Parisse managed that unlikely drop goal at the death, France would be welcoming Ireland on the back of a loss. Instead, they came away with a narrow 23-21 victory.
Conversely, through a combination of sheer grit and cohesion, Ireland beat back the behemoth Welsh carriers without once conceding the gain line. The 16-16 draw was without doubt the game in the weekend and, at times, Ireland demonstrated an expanding offensive palate of their own.
They also continued with the punishing and direct mode of attack once inside opposition 22 which, on recent evidence, would be more than sufficient to rack up the scores against Les Blues.
“The Italians did pretty well last weekend," Kearney said at Carton House on Tuesday. “The French were a bit softer than they usually are, especially outside the 22.
“They were probably letting the Italians attack too much and guys like (Michele) Campagnaro, they got on the outside and stretched them out wide. It’s definitely something we’ve looked at this week, and hopefully that space opens up for us this weekend.
“As I said, the Italians probably did stretch them a bit out wide. While their attack was good and they threw the ball around, I think they’re going to work on their defensive part of things this week.
Under Joe Schmidt the Irish set up is perpetually immersed in the analysis of future opponents but Ireland only have a truncated period to do their homework on France with the six-day turn around. However, Kearney claimed that the current crop are not a total unknown quantity with research having already been banked in earnest.
“When we met up a couple of weeks ago we had time to do a little bit on the French squad and the Welsh squad, so we have done a small bit of work. Then it’s an individual responsibility to know the guys you’re coming up against and the team you’re facing and how they like to play
“Yeah, it’s a six day turnaround and does give us less time, but when we meet back up together tomorrow, everybody needs to know their role and the moves around them.
“Everybody knows that Guy Noves loves to play that French style of rugby and throw the ball around a lot and the squad that he’s picked shows that. The guys that they have throughout the back line, they love to run, especially off broken field play. They love to run off counter attack and to offload the ball,” he said.