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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 4 March 2021

'It's brilliant being around the city when the Six Nations is on, you can feel the buzz'

Devin Toner says the squad are really looking forward to playing in front of the Ireland supporters again.

Thumbs up: Ireland's last home game was the victory over Australia.
Thumbs up: Ireland's last home game was the victory over Australia.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE FIRST HOME game of the Championship, Saturday night under the lights at the Aviva Stadium and a rejuvenated French side providing the opposition; there is a real sense of anticipation building ahead of this one, and that’s just from within the camp itself.

It may already be the third week of the campaign but Six Nations fever will belatedly hit the capital this weekend and it’s a fixture which has all the ingredients to live up to the billing.

“You’re probably going to hear it from everyone but we love playing in the Aviva,” Devin Toner says.

“It’s going to be great to have the first home game and it’s brilliant being around the city when the Six Nations is on. You can feel the buzz and the atmosphere building all through the week.

“There’s a good mood in the camp, everyone knows what a big game it is and we’re all looking forward to getting back in the Aviva. It’s a huge home game for us and everyone knows it.”

After an opening weekend defeat to Scotland and then a bonus point win in Rome, Joe Schmidt’s side head into the third round of games in second place, two points behind England.

Ireland produced an emphatic response to that Scottish reversal at the Stadio Olimpico last time out, a win and performance which reignited the campaign and title tilt ahead of this weekend’s game.

Devin Toner Toner speaking at the team's base in Carton House yesterday. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

But Toner and the players are fully aware that this French side will provide an entirely different proposition to the one put forward by a limited Italian outfit.

“Everyone knows you can’t lost two games and win a Six Nations so I think we need to obviously get this game right,” the second row continued.

“They’re a whole different team to what they were a few years ago and obviously the new coaching set up has done brilliantly and the players have bought into it really well.

“You can see from the last two games they’ve been performing pretty well so it’s a huge test for us but I think everyone is aware of that.”

When asked about the threats Guy Noves’ Les Blues will bring to Dublin on Saturday, Toner added: “Organisation is the key there, they’re a well-drilled unit. They’ve a good set-piece, a good line out, a good maul and a huge pack. Obviously they’ve got lightning quick wingers so we’ll have it up against us.

“One of the things we try and work on is our fitness and try to tire them out. Obviously they’re a huge forwards pack and 145 kilo prop in [Uini] Atonio and if we can move them around the pitch and around the corner and use our fitness and one of the things we can use. It’s one of the things we can target.

“They got over us last year. They’ve got their organisation right, they’re a different team from the last two or three years. They’ve kind of evolved their offloading game as well and you saw it with that try against England. The hands from the forwards were really good. That’s one of the biggest strengths they’ve been working on.”

The Ireland team huddle Toner says Ireland have a had a good week of training so far. Source: Harry Steacy/INPHO

France come into the game on the back of a narrow defeat to England at Twickenham and victory over Scotland in Paris and Toner admits home advantage could play a big part in deciding the outcome of a game between two sides who were separated by just a point 12 months ago.

“Everyone is dying to get back to the Aviva and hopefully we can put on a good show,” the Leinster man said.

“We move to the city centre to the Shelbourne on the Thursday and lads go on walks on Friday going around seeing everyone. You see all the French people coming in and on a Saturday morning we go for a walk through in Stephen’s Green so we can see everyone there.

“We have a nice little game we play and people tend to watch and cheer us on so we’re very much aware of the build-up and that the atmosphere is building. Obviously on the bus on the way in you can see everyone there as well.

“It does give you a big boost and we need to focus on this game as it’s a massive, massive challenge for us.”

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Ryan Bailey

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