VIDEO: This is a 'different French beast'
INTERVIEW: Ireland wing James Lowe says it will be “a different French beast” that faces the Irish in what some are already billing as the Six Nations title decider in Dublin on Saturday.
Lowe scored a superb interception try in the 34-10 hammering of Wales last Saturday while the French stumbled to a 29-24 victory over Italy this past Sunday.
Many see Ireland as the favourites as they bid for a record 13th successive home victory – France are the last team to have beaten them at Lansdowne Road 15-13 in the corresponding fixture two years ago.
Lowe, though, was having none of that at a press conference at the Irish training centre on Tuesday.
“I know they would be disappointed with their performance against Italy away, and credit to Italy, they fronted up physically,” said Lowe.
“But we know it’s a different French beast (this week), the France that we know is going to turn up and we’re prepping for that and can’t wait for the opportunity to test ourselves against the team that won the Grand Slam last year.”
New Zealand-born Lowe, 30, said France was an awesome unit, reflected by a record 14-match winning streak.
“They’re a world-class side, they’ve shown it for a good couple of years,” he said.
“Their 9-10 combo is pretty scary, their back row is world-class, they have a midfield that’s pretty dangerous and a back three that would put the shivers up most teams.
“Individually they’ve got some pretty good firepower, so hopefully they don’t string it all together.”
France is the only top-tier side that head coach Andy Farrell is yet to get the better of since he took over after the 2019 World Cup.
“I didn’t know that he hadn’t beaten France, I haven’t beaten France yet so I wouldn’t mind having a go at them as well,” said the extrovert Lowe.
“They’re a very, very good outfit and I don’t think you can take too much from last week.
“We’ve got a fairly big challenge ahead and we’re going to step fairly strong into it.”
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Veteran prop Dave Kilcoyne says the Irish need to front up in the scrum better than they did when losing in Paris last year.
“There’s no shying away from the French scrum, you look at the Top 14, you look at France, it’s what they base their game around,” said the 34-year-old.
“So it’s going to be a big challenge for us but we’ll put all the steps in to be prepared for it.”
Lowe says the Irish have progressed as a side since that loss, rising to the top the world rankings.
“We know we’ve got a shape that can break down most teams if we get our own stuff right and the French are physical, I think it would be silly to say they’re not bigger than us,” he said.
“We think we’re fitter. If we can get around them, work around into holes and hopefully get a couple of weak shoulders and stay on top of them. It sounds very easy to do but obviously, teams struggle to do it.”
Lowe said he did not believe what happens on Saturday would have much relevance if the two countries meet again at the World Cup later this year, but he admitted a win would be great psychologically.
“There’s still a long time but obviously you want to keep building and hold on to momentum for as long as you can because I think we’re in a good place and, if we can keep building and getting better, why wouldn’t we beat them?”
Lowe was similarly dismissive of the match being the Grand Slam decider, saying simply: “It’s the second game of a Six Nations.”
Ireland has progressed as a team and so, says Lowe, has he, citing his try against Wales.
“It was pretty satisfying, I guess, because a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have done that, I would have done something pretty stupid.
“I would have tried to whack someone.”