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O'Connell insists we can beat anyone on our day

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Tempo dominated the post-mortem of last week's Italian job -- a staccato first half almost symmetrically countered a legato second half.

However, unlike Italy, France won't shirk when presented with a slumbering start, particularly on their own turf; Ireland's recent history in Paris informs as much.

Hence, captain Paul O'Connell's pertinent warning that it is how and where Ireland play -- rather than how quickly -- which may prove more decisive to their improbable hopes of winning for just the third time on French soil in 60 years.

"When you make errors you play into the other team's hands," says O'Connell, from whom this Irish team cannot have failed to detect outstanding leadership in its most visceral terms.

"You allow an opposition to build field position and that puts pressure on you. That's a big problem for any team, especially in your own half of the field.

"We all want to play in the other team's half and if you can do that, that's really where you can bring the intensity to your game. At the weekend when we played in the Italian's half, we were very accurate and we were very intense.

"We did a lot of simple things well, which we probably didn't do as well in our own half of the pitch in the first-half."

The almost mind-numbing mantra emanating from all in Team Ireland has easily explained how Ireland have crumbled so meekly in Paris in recent times; few have managed to explain why.

"Sometimes we've just given ourselves too much of a mountain to climb," says O'Connell, himself desperately searching for reason.

"Maybe we've tried too hard at times in beginnings of games. That's something about the Italy game, even if the first half wasn't a great performance, we were patient. And that's how we need to be against France.

"We need to play in the right parts of the pitch against them, but you can't kick loosely to them either.

"We have to eradicate all the little errors that can give a French team momentum. We need to bring our best game over there to win, as Ireland did in 2000.

"Certainly, if we play to our potential we can beat anything. But that's the challenge, making sure we do play to our potential for the full 80 minutes so we can have that opportunity."

Irish Independent