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Adrian Flavin: 'Relax Ireland, BOD and the boys have got this'

The former Connacht and Ireland Wolfhounds hooker is confident of Joe Schmidt’s Plan A, B and C.

Brian O'Driscoll pictured during today's Captain's Run.
Brian O'Driscoll pictured during today's Captain's Run.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

I WILL START with the French anomaly. France, when they are in poor form, in-fighting, making multiple team changes, are mocked by the public and are arguing with the press, are at their most dangerous. Saying that, I still expect Ireland to win tomorrow.

We must not forget, France beat a very good England side at home. That was no easy feat, especially with how well England have been playing. They then went to Wales a few weeks later and lost badly.

They are getting berated by their press. Nicolas Mas walked out of a French presser during the week after taking criticism about the scrum. You don’t question a 20st tight-head about that, not unless you are behind toughened glass. that will only serve to get French tails up and they will be looking to go out tomorrow and deliver their best performance.

Picamoles is a beast and will prove hard to stop. His presence in the back row will be huge but looking at the French front five — Domingo, Szarzewski, Mas, Maestri and Papé — it is huge. In isolation, those five players are there to dominate their scrum and disrupt Ireland on their put-ins and their mauls. The Top 14 is not all triple miss, skip passes; there is a lot of blood and guts stuff. Pascal Papé and Yoann Maestri make their livings by disrupting the opposition. They will be well drilled for Ireland.

I was at the France versus Scotland game at Murrayfield and, no matter what Mas might think, the French scrum was in trouble. I would expect Ireland to come out on top in that department, which should prove massive in the final outcome of the game. I think Cian Healy and Rory Best will look to pincer in on Mas, who has a tendency to stand up when under pressure. It will then be up to referee Steve Walsh to give the penalties. That goes for scrum put-ins that are not straight.

If I was to call Joe Schmidt’s tactics right for tomorrow’s match, he would not be doing his job as an international coach. The beauty of this Irish squad, however, is that you can’t pigeon-hole the players — from 1-23 — to any one style of play. We have seen then take a side on up front [Scotland], kicking the ball [Wales], playing it tight [England], and playing it loose and wide [Italy]. The ace up Ireland’s sleeve is that they will go out with a specific game-plan, I’m sure, but have the ability to change it up at a moments’ notice. Joe Schmidt will have a Plan A, B and C and they will be equally effective.

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Joe Schmidt Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has called Saturday's match the biggest of his career. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

We are four games in and when I have to think of Ireland’s best player, I am tempted to name any of the replacements. Jack McGrath and Marty Moore, when they have come on, have added to the games and made a real impact. McGrath is as good at ball-stealing as an openside at this stage. Fergus McFadden and Sean Cronin did great jobs against Italy and it is now up to Ian Madigan to prove his worth, off the bench, in Paris. Schmidt is not afraid to use his bench and does not tolerate dips in performance levels when players come on.

I was asked this week if I would back Jonny Sexton with a kick, to the right of the posts, to win the game against France. I would; completely. 100%. He is a class player and one that has been vital in Ireland getting to where they are now. If you win the 10 shirt you have to be the quarter-back, the general. When you play at Test level, the knowledge you need to do your job, under the most extreme pressure, is unfathomable.

A fly-half will have to know his exact area on the pitch, the scrum and line-out moves he needs to call, what plays to run, how the same play worked last time [including if he spotted any gaps in the opposition the last time the play was run]. You have to be in the past, present and future — binary mode. There is no better man for that than Sexton. He will play a massive part in the winning or losing of this match and I’m backing him to be crucial in securing the win.

I’ve no doubt Ireland will win tomorrow and finish off with the championship; O’Driscoll’s second. It is not going to be easy. It will be a one score game but Ireland will edge it. It would be a richly deserved championship and one that this squad are capable of building on.

@adrianflavin played 159 times for Connacht between 2006 and 2013 and earned two Ireland Wolfhounds caps.

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About the author:

Adrian Flavin  / Former Connacht hooker

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