Friday 20 September 2019

Fired-up France ready to 'bleed for the shirt'

France's lock Paul Jedrasiak during a training session yesterday on the eve of their match against Ireland (Getty Images)
France's lock Paul Jedrasiak during a training session yesterday on the eve of their match against Ireland (Getty Images)

Nick Purewal

France have vowed to restore their famed "spiked helmet" ferocity against Ireland in Paris today.

Lock Paul Jedrasiak has shrugged off suggestions the modern-day Les Bleus cannot match the menace of their physical predecessors.

The Clermont second-row pledged France will "bleed for the shirt" in Six Nations action at the Stade de France.

"The spiked helmet is still in our blood," said Jedrasiak, who takes a seat on France's bench for today's game. "I hear a lot about the old and the new generation.

"They say it's not the same now, but that's wrong. We're on the same track.

"We want to give everything, to bleed for the shirt.

"The Irish will not give us gifts. And I will give everything to defend my land."

France have come under fire in recent times for appearing to lose their hard-bitten edge up front.

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While new coach Guy Noves wants to revive the golden era of France's carefree counter-attacking spirit, Jedrasiak believes Les Bleus' tight forwards are just as hell-bent on reasserting some engine-room energy.

Noves, Europe's most-decorated club coach with four Heineken Cup titles with Toulouse, must now transfer that know-how into the Test arena.

Ireland are gunning for a six-match unbeaten run against the French this weekend, and Noves is wary of head coach Joe Schmidt's "machine".

France missed 15 tackles in the unconvincing 23-21 victory over Italy last weekend, and Noves accepts any repeat will cost Les Bleus today.

"We were very far from international level in defence against Italy," said Noves. "The Irish are the machine that always plays the same way, but with a passion and an incredible will.

"The individual duels will be of great importance. If defensively we are as lax as against Italy, we will be in big trouble.

"Like all high-level matches it will be very hard, but we hope it will be hard for them too."

Noves has promoted bustling props Jefferson Poirot and Uini Atonio to France's starting line-up, despite both previously being viewed as impact substitutes.

Poirot and Atonio hold just 12 Test caps between them, but France can call on the more experienced duo of Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous from the bench.

Even if France's front-row switch caught Ireland on the hop, captain Rory Best has insisted that Joe Schmidt's side will be just as well prepared whichever personnel Les Bleus boast in the pack.

"France have got a very, very good squad, so no matter who is picked it's a tough challenge," he said.

"Three changes in the front five certainly freshens things up but by no means weakens them.

"It paints a slightly different picture for us, so we need to make sure that we are geared accordingly."

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