Dupont warns France about Irish threats
INTERVIEW: France got the defence of their Six Nations title off to a winning start on Sunday but it was, as the Duke of Wellington said about the Battle of Waterloo, “a close run thing”.
The French edged the match 29-24 and even claimed a bonus point in Rome after scoring four tries, but last year’s Grand Slam winners were pushed all the way by the Italians.
And that has sent a shockwave through the French camp as they prepare this week for the acid test of facing the world’s top-ranked side Ireland in Dublin.
“The world No.1 side at home. Just saying it sets the context,” said France captain Antoine Dupont.
“They are a team that very much knows what they’re about, they know their strengths and have been performing for many months.
“They attacked this tournament with real control.”
The Irish, who finished second to France last season after losing a rip-roaring contest at the Stade de France, started campaign with a brutal 34-10 dismantling of Wales in Cardiff.
They will doubtless be eager to avenge not just last year’s defeat in Paris, but the 13-15 loss they suffered in Dublin two years ago.
“We know where we are stepping, we know how we will be received,” said Dupont.
“The last time we were there, we won. We will have to increase our level of play in all sectors.
“But it’s one of the big matches that we really want to play.”
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‘A bit of fear’
If the French want to extend their winning streak to 15 matches, they will need to tighten up their discipline.
They gave away 18 penalties and a free-kick against Italy, a penalty try and a yellow card for flank Charles Ollivon that could have cost them dearly.
“If we don’t sort out our level of play, we will ship 15, 20 or even 30 points in Ireland,” said their defence coach Shaun Edwards.
Lock forward Thibaud Flament, who scored one of France’s tries on Sunday, agrees with Edwards.
“We really need to get back on track,” said the former Loughborough student who began his rugby career in Belgium with Waterloo.
“We need to correct every area where we sinned. We aren’t at peace. Ireland? They play fast, they play clean…”
His view of the Irish was echoed by fellow forward Sekou Macalou.
“There is a lot of excitement but also a bit of fear,” he admitted.
“Ireland are the top nation in the world. They play very, very good rugby. It’s going to be a very big game.”
Flament, however, is not viewing Saturday’s encounter in Dublin in the second round of matches as any kind of Six Nations final between the teams ranked first and second in the world.
“In the tournament, there are other matches. Every match is a big one. It certainly makes for a good line but there’s no final this early.”
The French have bolstered their squad by calling up six more players — back-rowers Francois Cros and Alexandre Becognee, prop Clement Castets as well as backs Pierre-Louis Barassi, Romain Buros and Matthis Lebel.