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Kidney keen to exploit French gaps

Declan Kidney refuses to restrict his players for Ireland's potential Six Nations title showdown with France on Saturday.

Kidney and his coaching lieutenants have devised a gameplan they hope will enable the Grand Slam champions to claim their first victory in Paris since 2000.

But Ireland's head coach insists it is crucial his team are permitted to play heads-up rugby against opposition that can be dangerously unpredictable.

"We have a broad plan but the boys will also have to think on their feet. You can try and second guess France but that's dangerous," Kidney said.

"France's set-piece is strong, so is their continuity and off-load game. They bring the unexpected.

"That gets them playing free-flowing rugby and, when they play like that, they'll make hay against anybody.

"They played like that against New Zealand (on their tour Down Under) last summer and South Africa in the autumn, and came out on top both times.

"We'll try and match their forwards and take a look at what their backs present in defence.

"We'll just have to attack what we see in front of us. That's the way Irish teams need to play.

"We need to be smart -- if we play the same way every time, teams will cut us down," added the former Munster coach.


"We have a style that we play but it allows players to exploit gaps.

"You can't defend the whole pitch so we'll have to pick out where France are vulnerable."

Ireland will be dismayed by the timing of old foe Vincent Clerc's return to the Test arena for Les Bleus.

Clerc replaces the injured Benjamin Fall on the right wing as one of two enforced changes to the side that beat Scotland 18-9 at Murrayfield last week.

The Toulouse winger has scored seven tries in five appearances against Ireland, including a hat-trick at the Stade de France two years ago.

His most painful intervention, however, came at Croke Park in 2007 when he crossed with a minute to go for a try that effectively denied Ireland the Grand Slam.

The rare decision by French coach Marc Lievremont to make minimal changes to his line-up signals the gravity France have attached to the match, but Kidney insists Les Bleus could have picked several players and still remain competitive.

"France have such an array of players. I've seen some of the stuff that has been written about Lievremont but, when you have that many players, you can come up with any XV," Kidney said.

"They have so much strength in depth and that's why they have the record they do."