Andy Farrell: 'No point in Ireland scoring four tries to France's six'

The Ireland head coach faces a fascinating dilemma in chasing four tries and a win against a French side that embraces unstructured rugby more than most
Andy Farrell: 'No point in Ireland scoring four tries to France's six'

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell at training on Wednesday. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Andy Farrell insists Ireland will not shoot themselves in the foot by adopting a high-risk strategy against France in Paris this weekend.

The visitors will likely require a four-try winning bonus point at the Stade de France in order to claim an unlikely Six Nations title but the Ireland head coach is all too aware that the French are masters of the unorthodox and the unpredictable.

“It's going to be a game of feel, isn't it? The game is for 80 minutes and we will feel how it is going but it certainly won't be one of high-risk strategy, otherwise you have seen the type of team we are playing against and we could end up shooting ourselves in the foot massively.”

France demonstrated just how dangerous they can be last week in turning an early 10-0 deficit at home to Wales into an impressive 38-21 win and they too are in a position to nick the championship if they can pile enough scores on Ireland in Saint-Denis.

As Farrell points out, there are any number of ways in which a game's momentum can change and far too many Ireland teams have found themselves facing impossible odds within minutes of the kick-off in the French capital.

“You could get four tries and still lose the game. They are so dangerous. There is no point in scoring four and they score six. You won't get what you want from that. We will stick to the plan and see how it unfolds.

“Hopefully we put enough pressure on the game to open it up somewhere down the line. It's a tough old task, isn't it? We know what the French are capable of and, watching them last weekend, they are a formidable side, especially at home.

“They have got threats all over the field. The forward pack is very physical and very dominating in terms of going forward and set-piece-wise. There are a lot of things we have to make sure we handle, first and foremost.”

The head coach has, as expected, kept changes to a minimum after last week's comprehensive defeat of Italy in Dublin with Robbie Henshaw slipping into the midfield slot vacated by the injured Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell promoted to the bench.

The likelihood is that France will offer up opportunities. Fabien Galthié's side have conceded ten tries across their four championship games to date. Only Italy, with 20, have leaked more but only Scotland have managed to make them pay with a victory in Murrayfield.

Ireland's task this weekend will be to claim at least four and the man doing his utmost to ensure that doesn't happen will be French defence coach Sean Edwards who is a familiar adversary of Farrell's and the man he beat to the same role with Warren Gatland's Lions.

Whatever about the stats, Farrell has seen huge change in how France defend under Edwards.

“The obvious thing is the line-speed but the only way you get that line-speed is because you win collisions first. The forward pack is a mobile one. It is different to French packs before. Their forwards are dominant collision-winners first and foremost.

“The pressure that they put on at the breakdown allows slower ball so they can set and get off the line. That's it in a nutshell. You get those pieces right and you are able to put line-speed and pressure onto the opposition attack and that has been the biggest difference.”

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