Fair weather or foul, pragmatic or expansive, France may be winless after three games of this RBS 6 Nations but they have come to Ireland ready to stop the rot and inflict more pain on Kidney, whose tenure hangs in the balance after back-to-back defeats to England and Scotland.
Saint-Andre looks to be gearing up for a more forward-orientated territory-based game having restored kicking out-half Freddie Michalak to the No 10 jersey, with the metronomic penalty taker Morgan Parra retained at scrum-half and another boot in Florian Fritz installed at outside centre all capable of delivering the French pack a foothold in the Ireland half of the field.
The key, though, as far as the Ireland head coach is concerned, is not to allow France to get into their rhythm and that means a fast and intense start to today’s game, set to get under way in front of a capacity crowd but with forecasts of the type of Dublin downpour that saw the home side struggle against England.
“Which type of French team will come out?” Kidney asked yesterday.
“In terms of our World Cup prep [twice against France in August 2011], we played two French teams in successive weeks. In Bordeaux they played one type of game then we played them the following week and they came with a different type of 15 and they just shoved it up the jumper and played a different type of game.
“So we know they’re well capable of playing different types of matches and I’m sure they’ll adapt to the conditions as well but it’s up to us as to how much we let them settle. That’ll be the challenge for us. If we let them settle into it they’ll do what they can do. The trick is not to let them settle into it.”
Kidney said that a strong start need not necessarily mean scoring the first points of the game.
“Well I think every team is looking to get into the game, every team is looking to score first. But it’s not an absolute disaster if you don’t do that. It depends. You just have to get yourself settled into the game. Getting the first score is always handy but as somebody once said to me, getting the last score might be important.”
Having seen Ireland blow winning positions in successive games through needless penalties, captain Jamie Heaslip also challenged the Ireland team to stay disciplined throughout the 80 minutes.
“We can’t give them any easy shots in our half because Parra’s a good kicker and we got a good taste of that when we played Clermont here [in the Heineken Cup] with Leinster. I can’t remember how many points he kicked that day but he’s got a great boot and we have to be disciplined, like in every game, we really do have to focus on that, but we’re looking forward to it.”