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The Green Army invades Paris to give hero Brian the send-off he deserves

THE countdown to Brian O'Driscoll's last game in an Ireland shirt has begun, and Paris has been invaded by an army of singing supporters.

The French capital has been over-run by thousands of Irish fans who have arrived en masse, coming by air, sea, rail and road.

For friends Noel Gleeson, John McConway and Dara Dalton, this fixture was one they simply could not miss.

"We never usually go to away matches, but this one is special – it's for BOD," Noel told the Herald.

Many fans have come directly from home soil, while hundreds have travelled from other countries overseas to enjoy the sporting action and what revellers are hoping will be a winning day for Ireland.

Paris is buzzing with excitement and anticipation ahead of today's kick off at 6pm local time and, for a lot of fans, being present to experience O'Driscoll's last international game in a green jersey was the pull factor.

Dubliners David Ding, Andrew Noonan and Conor O'Neill booked their flights 11 months ago.

"It's just a big game, we knew it would be one to talk about for years to come," said David.

Recently-married Wayne and Lynn O'Connor are dedicated supporters and follow the squad to all away matches.

UK-based couple Stephen O'Neill and Claire Halpenny will this evening attend their first Ireland rugby match.


"Our families are from Carlow and Fermanagh and everyone was talking about going to this particular game. We can't wait, it's going to be a spectacle," said Stephen.

Wicklow man Dom Crotty, who brought son Rory to France for the event, said: "How can you sit at home watching this game of all games when we know it's Brian's final line-out for his country? It's amazing to be part of that."

Situated on the outskirts of the city, the Stade de France will be teeming with 80,000 fans as they descend on the grounds in Saint Denis for the last – and perhaps most thrilling – fixture of the 2014 Six Nations campaign.

Speaking at the post-captain's run press conference yesterday, Munster man Peter O'Mahony said that while the players are looking forward to the game this evening, there is always pressure in coming to Paris.

"It's a tough place to come and play and a tough stadium in which to get a win. We're confident in our training and preparation this week," he said.

After a light training session to get a feel for the ground, Joe Schmidt's squad took in some of the sights of the host city yesterday.

The team are staying along the Champs Elysees, and several players changed into casual clothes for a stroll.

Gordon D'Arcy joined team-mates Rory Best, Martin Moore and Mike Ross to wander down one of Europe's most famous streets and take in the atmosphere like their fellow tourists.

Irish pubs in the capital were heaving with enthusiasts last night, with several ordering in extra kegs to accommodate the thirsty punters.