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Gaffney confident of O'Leary fitness as Irish ready to show 'something special'

AFTER their difficulties with the refereeing of Romain Poite in last weekend's 13-11 victory over Italy, Ireland have followed the established protocol and are confident they will not experience the same problems against France tomorrow.

Poite penalised Ireland regularly at the scrum when it appeared to be the Italian props, Salvatore Perugini and Martin Castrogiovanni, who were scrummaging illegally and forwards coach Gert Smal said yesterday that he expects no repeat against France when England's Dave Pearson will be in charge.

"After the problems last week, we went through the protocol and we are confident things will be sorted out at the weekend," said Smal.

"If that is the case, and once we sort out what we want to do (in the scrum), then we will be okay."

France destroyed Scotland in the scrum during their 34-21 victory in Paris last weekend and Smal believes the French pack is among the best in the world.

"Absolutely. We are going to be challenged in all facets of forward play. You look at the height of their pack, and on the bench, and they have a lot of weight behind the props so it is going to be very challenging.

"But, I am confident there is something special in this Irish team and when it matters, they can dig it out," added Smal.

Ireland will give Tomas O'Leary every chance to prove his fitness to take his place at scrum-half, but the Munster man must be a serious doubt at this stage having not trained this week.

O'Leary suffered a "minor back spasm" in Rome, with Peter Stringer called up to the squad as cover, but backs coach Alan Gaffney said the medical staff would examine him again this morning and the Australian was optimistic he would be okay to face France.


"I'd be pretty confident he'll play," said Gaffney. "We will give him every chance."

Gaffney echoed the sentiments of head coach Declan Kidney, captain Brian O'Driscoll and last weekend's match-winner Ronan O'Gara when he said Ireland have to attack the French tomorrow and that a safety-first policy would be playing into the visitors' hands.

"There is no doubt we are going out to try and play," said Gaffney.

"We are trying to play attacking rugby although we have to balance that depending on the conditions. But, all things being equal, we will attack them and that is the only way to play a French side.

"There is no point sitting back against the French, that's what they want you to do, you have to take the game to them.

"We take responsibility for what happened last weekend, but we also understand that the (Irish) guys have a high skill level and we don't expect the same amount of errors to happen again," he added.

The need to reduce the amount of dropped balls and missed passes is an imperative for Ireland tomorrow and Gaffney is well aware of the consequences should they fail to do so.

"France against Australia in November, the second half was a rout and, personally, I think that is why a number of people who played in the autumn are not seen near the squad at the present time," he said.

"France are a dangerous side, no doubt. The four tries they scored against Scotland were not from set-pieces, they came from loose play, they are dangerous all over the pitch.

"We got away with things last weekend that we wouldn't get away with against France.

"If we turn over ball like we did last weekend we will be punished. But these guys understand that, that is the type of pressure they like playing under."

Irish Independent