Irish defence put to Six Nations test - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Irish defence put to Six Nations test

By Stuart Condie 12/02/2010 03:50:32 PM Comments (0)

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll concedes his side will need to improve dramatically on last week's win over Italy if it is to keep its Six Nations title defense on track against France.

While England goes to Italy looking to build on last week's opening victory, Ireland has the toughest possible game to follow its uninspiring 29-11 win over the Italians.

France was already tournament favorite before blowing away Scotland in its first match with a dominant first-half performance at Murrayfield.

"We'll get better as the competition goes on but there's plenty to improve on," Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll said.

"Our ability to create fast ruck ball is the winning and losing of games against sides like France.

"We need to work on that."

Ireland eased into a 23-3 lead over Italy but was unable to stamp its dominance on the match.

But coach Declan Kidney resisted the temptation to change a winning lineup and will give the players who went unbeaten through 2009 another chance.

Ronan O'Gara has recovered from a leg injury that forced him off the field against Italy and will continue at flyhalf, with Jonathan Sexton on the bench.

France is protecting a 10-year unbeaten record at home against Ireland and looks to be the biggest obstacle to the visitors' attempts to defend its first Grand Slam since 1948.

France have brought in wingers Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson for the injured Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall in the only changes to the side that beat Scotland 18-9.

"You don't change a winning team, with the exception of the two injured wingers," coach Marc Lievremont said.

"The pack gave us great satisfaction, the front five were extremely good."

Ireland beat France 30-21 last year on its way to winning the Grand Slam.

Possibly the most intriguing clash will be in midfield, where giant center Mathieu Bastareaud, who scored both France's tries against the Scots, will be up against O'Driscoll.

Scotland couldn't get its attacking game going against a fierce French defense and could find itself under severe pressure Saturday against a Wales side stung by its 30-17 loss at England.

Wales was undone by the yellow card given lock Alun-Wyn Jones for tripping, with England scoring 17 points while it had a man advantage.

"We have got to cut the errors in our game, because we know when we are accurate we are a very good side," Wales flyhalf Stephen Jones said.

"We have to give England credit because they played well, but the problem from our perspective was that we took so much away from our own game just from our own inaccuracies."

A 15-man Wales side in good form should be too strong for a competitive but limited Scottish team, Welsh coach Warren Gatland making only minor changes to his side.

England finally found its try-scoring form against Wales and should be even stronger in that department with last season's leading try scorer, Riki Flutey, back in the starting lineup after recovering from injury.

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