Billy Stickland/INPHO O'Driscoll is within touching distance of another Six Nations medal.
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French clash is about more than O'Driscoll's farewell, say focused Ireland
Blindside flanker Peter O’Mahony and forwards coach John Plumtree insist that their focus is on the team effort.

IN A CURIOUS way, last weekend’s fixture against Italy at the Aviva saw the Brian O’Driscoll farewell taken care of.

It may sound cold, but that is not the intention. Ireland are in Paris to win a Six Nations title; that is the only focus for Joe Schmidt’s men. O’Driscoll himself would be the first to insist tomorrow evening’s clash at the Stade de France is not about him.

The tributes have been earned and the adulation is deserved, but they can wait until after the final whistle. Ireland carried out their captain’s run in the sun-soaked Parisian stadium this afternoon with a steely concentration on their team ‘processes’ rather than any individual landmark.

Blindside flanker Peter O’Mahony admits that sending O’Driscoll into the international sunset tomorrow night with another Six Nations medal in his possession would be ideal, but that thought is not dominating his mental preparation.

It would be great, but I think everyone has enough to worry about with their own jobs. It’s such a big week for everyone that you have to make sure that your house is right and that you’ve got all your detail nailed down.

“There is so much of it there that you just need to worry about yourself this week. It is an important week for Brian and it would be great to finish off on a high for him, but I’ve been worried about myself for the week, trying to get myself right, to be honest.”

Forwards coach John Plumtree – who has been notably praised by the French media this week – echoed the Munster captain’s sentiments when pushed to provide a soundbite encapsulating how perfect it would be for O’Driscoll to sign off with a trophy.

General view as the Irish team train Billy Stickland / INPHO Ireland warm-up at a sunny Stade de France this afternoon. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The Kiwi claims he and his fellow coaching staff have not looked to use the 35-year-old’s impending retirement as a motivating line in the build-up to tomorrow.

“It’s a big occasion for Brian and his family, but we haven’t really talked about it as a team. We’ve made sure we’ve stayed focused on our preparation and it’s been good.

We’re here and we’re just really looking forward to the kick-off, that’s all that matters. After the 80 minutes, then we’ll celebrate Brian’s rugby career with Ireland and that will be it.”

Ireland’s players are in fine fettle after arriving at their Champs Elysées hotel yesterday, despite some local alarm over high air pollution levels in the Paris region. O’Mahony laughed off a query as to whether the Irish players were worried about the damage they might incur playing in such atmospheric conditions, saying “I felt fine out there” after the captain’s run.

There have been no late injury scares this week, with Robbie Henshaw, Rhys Ruddock and Richardt Strauss having traveled as cover in case of emergencies. With today’s fine weather expected to continue tomorrow, the stage is set for a memorable Six Nations finale.

That Ireland insist this game is not just about one legend should come as encouragement. Nothing gets in the way of Schmidt’s focus on performance.

Bonne chance les verts.

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