Sunday 18 February 2018

Veteran duo in clash of titans

Brian O'Driscoll plays for Ireland for the final time on Saturday
Brian O'Driscoll plays for Ireland for the final time on Saturday

Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy must dominate the generation game to guide Ireland to RBS 6 Nations glory in Paris, according to Joe Schmidt.

Head coach Schmidt believes Ireland's veteran centre pairing will face a culture clash with France's wrecking ball crew, led by Toulon beefcake Mathieu Bastareaud.

Iconic centre O'Driscoll will make his 141st and final Test appearance at the Stade de France on Saturday as Ireland chase their first Six Nations title since the 2009 Grand Slam.

O'Driscoll and D'Arcy will extend their world-record international centre partnership to 56 caps, with Schmidt already labelling the wily duo the "last bastion" of creative midfield play.

The Ireland boss has challenged his seasoned campaigners to deny 25-year-old Bastareaud and friends lethal offloads out of the tackle this weekend.

"I'm not sure that Bastareaud ever gets taken in the first tackle, he breaks those tackles," Schmidt said.

"Gael Fickou, Bastareaud, Remi Tales, they are all massive offload threats.

"If you don't wrap them up, you can be chasing the next guy who has run a good line off the offload and the game turns around very quickly.

"France just have pace and the ability to accelerate into space very quickly, they are all looking to do it at any stage, and they anticipate any break that comes loose.

"They will seize any opportunity, when they chance their arm they have some of those athletes with the skills to make something happen."

Ireland, France and England can all still claim the Six Nations title heading into the final weekend.

Schmidt's men might be favourites in theory, but the former Leinster coach warned against ruling out Les Bleus.

Former New Zealand schoolteacher Schmidt is also adamant France's patchy 19-17 victory in Scotland last weekend will not hinder their performance on home soil.

The ex-Clermont backs coach admitted Ireland must beware the typical Gallic l'esprit de clocher - the 'clock tower spirit' - that underpins the French dominance at home.

"It's a bit trite, this is our patch this is what we defend: they take immense pride in that," said Schmidt.

"Often when a player is fatigued they will mentally just switch off a little bit.

"But it's a lot less likely to happen when you're on your home patch.

"They dig a little bit deeper to make sure you do what's required of you.

"There's more of an edge, because you just can't afford to lose at home.

"A lot of people have overlooked the fact they have an outside chance to win it."

Press Association

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