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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 24 May, 2018

Are Ireland to face future world kings tomorrow?

After a traumatic autumn, Les Bleus will continue their climb back to the top of the game in Dublin tomorrow.

IN A SOUTH-EASTERN pocket of France lies a quaint little town called Valence. It is a town of picturesque 11th century Roman buildings and an aura of historical consequence. It is a town where, on a cold December day in 1977, a caveman was born.

Sebastien Chabal is a beast of a man, the type of muscular hairy giant that would interview for the role of henchmen to a Bond villain.

Known for terrorising opposition players with his ferocious hard-hitting tackles, Chabal is an icon and adored among the French rugby public.

Nicknamed the caveman, Chabal is a wild-looking mountain of a man, full of power and raw aggression. He is charismatic and inspirational to even look at and at a time when heavy criticism has been heaped upon the French side, he is someone from whom a thing or two could be learned.

French teams have often been known for panache but also for incredible drive and will to win. Having been decimated by Australia last November, in a gruesome 59-16 rout, French rugby was left without aim or direction. Fingers were pointed at coach Marc Lièvremont for strange selections and at the players for being passed it or not good enough.

The Parisian support let their feelings known at the final whistle and Les Bleus limped out of the Stade de France.

But this is a French side that has won the Six Nations three out of the last five years, including last year’s Grand Slam. They are of course a side of unquestionable quality. Instead of looking all around them for answers, they should look within.

A victory over Scotland last weekend, while convincing at times, will not have been the most difficult of tasks that they will face during this Six Nations campaign. To recover from such a humiliating defeat on your own patch they will have to show real guts and determination. Hell, they will probably have to show some of Chabal’s brute force and ignorance at times. Whatever it takes to win, that’s the aim of the game, that’s what separates the great teams from the good.

There will be times when the French are down, perhaps looking out, times when they will find their character being tested and they will need to react more convincingly then they did last November.

France come to Dublin tomorrow in search of another positive step along the road to achieving Six Nations glory again. They will meet an Irish side with problems of their own. Declan Kidney’s men are under their own pressure to improve vastly from the ‘fall over the line’ performance against Italy.

Much hype has been built around the Irish side, with some calling the boys in green favourites for the tournament before it began. But Ireland looked aged and tired last week. And with every mistake that Ireland made, the French will have gained confidence that they will have just too much for us. The French have had too much for us more often then not in Six Nations history. France ruined Ireland’s Six Nations debut at Croke Park, they look set to spoil our Aviva debut as well.

The World Cup pits France against New Zealand, Tonga, Canada and Japan in the pool phase. While nobody is expecting Les Bleus to topple the All Blacks in the group, second place would more then likely force a showdown against England in the quarter-finals.

Martin Johnson’s side would certainly not be relishing that encounter. It is likely that Australia would see off Wales in their quarter-final which would cement a rematch with the French.

It looks so perfectly scripted doesn’t it? This French team, having so much to prove to guarantee their place as one of the great sides, could earn their ideal place to do it in a revenge match with the Aussies. Lièvremont won’t even need to make a team talk before that one. No extra motivation needed.

The quest to rebuild after that monstrous demolition last November continues tomorrow in Dublin. Play their cards right this year and the caveman creators could dance the dance on the Valence streets not only tomorrow but next October too.

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About the author:

Mark Corcoran

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