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Can O'Driscoll repeat Paris heroics of 2000?

At last, the day is almost here when Ireland will find out how realistic their aim of a second successive Grand Slam is at the home of their bogey nation in the Six Nations.

Ireland have skewered France just twice in the post-World War 2 period, a dreadful return for the investment of effort and the list of valiant players that have strived without reward for victory.

The two exceptions to the rule of thumb came in 1972 when tries from Johnny Moloney and Ray McLoughlin formed the basis of the 14-9 halving of France in Stades Colombes and when Brian O'Driscoll announced himself as a world star with that unforgettable hat-trick of tries in 2000.

Obviously, the most important link back to 2000 is the ongoing involvement of Ireland captain O'Driscoll, still an iconic presence in the game.

However, it is the overall improvement of Irish rugby through the foreign exploits of Munster, particularly in France, and Leinster in the Heineken Cup that have imbued the Irish players with a sense of belief.

It was the seeds sown in those foreign forays, with their provinces and country, which laid the foundations for the Grand Slam. For all of this team's achievements, they have not been able to trump France in France.

Verdict: Ireland

France: C Poitrenaud; V Clerc, M Bastareaud, Y Jauzion, A Palisson; F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; T Domingo, W Servat, N Mas, L Nallet, P Pape, T Dusautoir (capt), F Ouedraogo, I Harinordoquy.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; C Healy, J Flannery, J Hayes, L Cullen, P O'Connell, S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

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