Unbeaten records, recent meetings: forget about them.
Scott Spedding has. The French full-back hasn’t spent his week poring over statistics that show Ireland are unbeaten against them for four years.
Tomorrow’s Pool D encounter at the Millennium Stadium, he insists, will be one drawn on a clean canvas.
“It’s never great if you don’t have any good memories to draw on, but in this game both sides are going to start at zero,” said the South African-born French citizen.
“We make our history now and we have to make it happen for ourselves. It’s not great if you don’t have good memories of playing against a side, but some of the guys in the side would never have played in those games which we lost. So, we’re going to start from zero and hopefully we’re going to pull out the first one (a win) at the right time.”
Some of Spedding’s colleagues made no secret of their irritation with the script being written by their own press last week. Yannick Nyanga asked why Ireland’s performance against Romania was hailed while their displays were heavily criticised when the margins of victory had been almost identical. Coach Philippe Saint-Andre added to the sense of a team straining at the leash to prove their doubters wrong when he spoke sarcastically of Ireland’s green giants early this week.
He declared his players to be “starving” to face the Irish in yesterday’s briefing. Spedding, however, was in diplomatic mode.
“Look, (Ireland is) a great side. You can see how clinical they are; their kicking game, the way they contest in the air, everything just seems so clinically well run. Joe Schmidt has a lot to do with that. I don’t know him too well, but a lot of the Clermont guys say that that’s the type of coach he is. Everything seems to work so well. So it’s not by accident that they were (ranked) number two in the world not so long ago. It’s not be accident that they won the Six Nations.
“They’re a quality side. We know what we’re up against.” The reverse holds true, too. Mike Ross was the latest Irish player to warn that Irish optimism should tread softly ahead of what is likely to be a literally heavyweight encounter when he pointed out how much better France will be for the three months they have had together up to now.
Spedding mirrored that line of thought. When he first joined up with the national squad last November, the squad had just five days to prepare before their first game.
Come the Six Nations that lead-in was extended by just two. The evidence of their first three Pool D games is that they remain a few paces off their full stride and yet their record of peaking for World Cups is well highlighted and they will have had a ten-day run-in since their last outing against Canada in Milton Keynes to prepare for Ireland.
“There’s a lot of guys who played in the last (World Cup) final, three or four of them in the side who know that this is their last shot, and they want to leave on a high.
“The World Cup is something special in France. If you see the build-up in France at the World Cup........ It’s a competition that works well with the French for some reason, it’s a competition close to the French hearts, so we know we’ve got a lot of pressure on us from the public.”
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