Wednesday 21 March 2018

'Ireland are thinking of those two dirty words' - Brian O'Driscoll feels Joe Schmidt and his side are desperate for a Grand Slam

Brian O'Driscoll and Joe Schmidt
Brian O'Driscoll and Joe Schmidt Newsdesk Newsdesk

Only two members of the current Irish squad can boast a Grand Slam, Rob Kearney and Rory Best, and Brian O'Driscoll believes their younger counterparts will be desperate to add the elusive achievement to their CVs.

Ireland are in the unusual position of being favourites for a trip to Paris to face Les Bleus.

France haven't won a game in seven attempts, their last home fixture was a draw against Japan, they have changed their coach with Jacques Brunel taking over and have selected a teenager at flyhalf.

Despite all this, Ireland's record on French soil doesn't make for good reading and our championship winning display their in 2014 was a very nervy affair.

If Ireland can win tomorrow, they have three back-to-back home games against Italy, Wales and Scotland before a St Patrick's weekend potential Grand Slam decider in Twickenham.

Ireland's record tryscorer

"We're in a very different place to this French side. I think they're at a low ebb, they've never been ninth in the world and they've just changed their coach," O'Driscoll told Off The Ball on Newstalk.

"They've realised that they're in the middle of a cycle for a world cup, they're in a group of death with Argentina and England and something has to change on their form to improve in any capacity.

"Their form has been really poor by their own standards. The Top 14 club game has really hurt their international team. They've been lacking in certain positions.

"If ever there was an opportunity to beat France in Paris, this is it,

"We are going in as favourites. Is it the first time ever that we're going to Paris as favourites and firm favourites? It's not just the Irish media or the English media that think it.

"We don't sit with that well. We don't want to be overwhelming favourites but the reality is that if you want to achieve something at a global level you have to be able to take these pressures.

"We're a vastly improved team on the team that took to the Six Nations last year.

"I know this squad and that would have hurt them (the loss to Scotland last year) because they feel there is a slam in them and just because it's the unfavourable year when you have England and France away doesn't mean they are not thinking about Championship and those two dirty words we are not allowed talk about. Of course they are thinking that.

"They are coming off the back of a very confident November series where they were comfortable victors over South Africa and Argentina, got by Fiji with the second string but the strength and depth has developed absolutely from this time last year.

"Certain positions are unrecognisable with the depth of quality now there. When you look at the names not making the squad, it speaks volumes.

"I think we have 35 players who are of a very high standard.

"Joe will have a hunger for a Grand Slam. He has two Championships but he'll want a slam.

"Only two of the players involved have Grand Slams, Rory Best and Rob Kearney, They are absolutely desperate to achieve it because the calibre of this team of the past four or five years was more than capable of winning a slam and they defintely felt they left one slip last year.

"This is a good opportunity to put themselves in a great spot to win one at Twickenham if they can win this weekend because you've seen how good Ireland have been at home. It will take a good side to beat Ireland at home."

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