Ireland won't fear any repeat of the cheap shots shipped in the Stade de France two years ago when they return to the French capital for the first time since for this year’s Six Nations opener, writes Brendan O'Brien.
Joe Schmidt’s side was the superior outfit in Saint-Denis in February of 2016 but they fell short to the hosts in a 10-9 defeat in which both Dave Kearney and Jonathan Sexton were victims to challenges that deserved serious disciplinary action.
Neither Guilhem Guirado nor Yoann Maestri were directed off the pitch but Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby played down those incidents and possible fears of anything similar this time around when asked if they was part of the side’s thoughts ahead of Saturday’s meeting.
“No, we have to trust the guys in the middle and the fourth official, making sure we get the right adjudication,” said the former Ireland flanker. “The game every year is becoming critical of those players who go outside the law.
“It’s not know possible to do certain things that you used to get away with when I was playing and that is for the betterment of the game.
“I am sure Nigel Owens and his team will have full control of that. We don’t have any concerns about what is going to happen out there and we trust the guys in the middle will be able to control things and see everything.”
That Parisian loss was one of four Ireland have suffered on the road in this tournament in their last five road trips. The one victory in that time was recorded in Rome against an Italian side that has repeatedly propped up the foot of the championship table.
It is a concern ahead of this latest running, one which begins and ends with away trips given Ireland will wrap up their Six Nations campaign on St Patrick’s Day with an eagerly anticipated fixture against England at Twickenham.
“There is always that familiarity of your home environment but you try as much as you can to block out where you are playing and control what you can,” said Easterby. “I wouldn’t say our away form has been poor. It has been inconsistent at times.
“There’s not been a run of games where we have lost four or five on the bounce. We have picked up wins on the road but I would say England are the only side that has consistently won away from home over the last couple of years with that long run of wins, home and away.”
Yet Easterby did add that a win in Paris, or anywhere other than Dublin basically, would be an important developmental step for the team and he called on his players to “embrace” the unique atmosphere in Paris and then to kill it.
Speaking at the team base in Kildare on Tuesday afternoon, Easterby reiterated the ‘all clear’ medical bulletin that had been sounded 24 hours earlier and declared the need for Ireland to ‘get their own house in order’.
That clearly wasn’t the case two years ago when they let the win slip.
“The trip two years ago to Paris is relevant because it is the last time we played there and there were certain things we felt we could have done better that time. Travelling to Paris is always a tricky proposition as we well know.
“We haven’t got the greatest of records over there. I think it is three victories in the last forty years. So there is some relevance to things we can do better in a place like the Stade de France and last year we did things that we can maybe improve on.”