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'It's unlikely one man is going to stop him' - Kearney on Bastareaud

The Ireland fullback has outlined the various threats the French backline poses today in Dublin.

ROB KEARNEY WILL hope the tackling success of Johnny Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne means he doesn’t come into contact with Mathieu Bastareaud today, but it looks certain that halting the powerful France centre will be a collective duty.

Mathieu Bastareaud is tackled by Gordon DÕArcy and Paul OÕConnell Gordon D'Arcy and Paul O'Connell feel Basta's power last season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Bastareaud did repeated damage to Ireland’s defence in Paris last year, but Ireland managed to hang onto the 120kg wrecking ball at the most crucial times, recovering their defensive line and regathering their shape.

Despite that intimate awareness of what the Toulon midfielder brings, Kearney admits it doesn’t make it any easier to stop Bastareaud.

He’s huge,” says Kearney. “He gets up such a turn of pace. It’s unlikely one man is going to stop him, so you are going to need more than one. I just hope the front line can do that job and he doesn’t come crashing through!”

The Ireland fullback is asked to describe the feeling of taking the brunt of Basta’s power in the collision: “It’s big.”

It might take more than one man to stop the 26-year-old’s most dynamic carries, but Kearney indicates that Ireland cannot afford to direct their entire defensive effort in Bastareaud’s direction.

“Of course you can’t, especially when his partner is Wesley Fofana. There is a lot of responsibility on the two centres to look out for Bastareaud and to manage him as best as possible.

“We need to look out for each other too, that if we are double-teaming one man, it means other guys have to work harder in case they do use him [Bastareaud] as a decoy runner.”

Rob Kearney Kearney will be called on to get involved in Ireland's kicking and chasing. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Kearney looks to France’s back for further danger, with 21-year-old wing Teddy Thomas having added a frightening degree of footwork skills, enthusiasm and sheer pace.

“He’s a dual-arm carrier,” outlines Kearney of what his analysis has revealed. “The important thing when you are left with Teddy Thomas one-on-one is to keep your feet moving because as soon as you start to plant, he’s gone.”

Yoann Huget’s ability has been well highlighted, while Kearney says of opposite number Scott Spedding that “any man who can start ahead of Brice Dulin is doing something unbelievably well.”

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France’s backline comes with this reputation for a combination of power in contact and that flair around their footwork. Do Ireland have anything similar? Kearney points out that Joe Schmidt’s backs aren’t hoping to exactly match what France do.

I think we play different rugby,” says Kearney. “That’s not the type of game we want to play. If we had a coach who wanted us to throw offloads and throw 50-50 balls, I’m sure we could match it but it’s not the type of rugby we want to play.

“With all due respect, we are not trying to match them. They do have that ability and flair and it is probably more pertinent off turnover balls, loose scraps and kicking poorly to them. We know the damage they can create when they are given easy ball.”

That said, Ireland have the ability to cut France open, even if there was a lack of passing and linebreaks on show in the first half of the win over Italy last weekend at Stadio Olimpico.

Paul O'Connell, Jonathan Sexton and Rob Kearney with Louis Magee before the team picture Team photo time at the Aviva yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Kearney says we may see a few more elements of Schmidt’s attacking game plan this evening in Dublin.

“We’ve a huge amount of license to play and to be fair to Joe as a coach, if it’s on from deep and we look back on video and analyse that maybe in some instances it was on and we kicked, he’ll ask the question ‘why are you not running that?’

“In tight games, sometimes you play the percentages a little bit more. You can’t kick loosely to France and they do give you some opportunities to run from deep and I think we will be doing that.

Last week was a little bit different. We had a new guy coming in playing his first Six Nations game [Ian Keatley], it was the opening game of the tournament.

“You want to turn the Italians and ease your way into the competition a little bit and we did that through good field position.”

Of further positivity for the Ireland set-up is the return of Johnny Sexton at out-half, providing Schmidt’s side with its true on-field tactical director, as well as a man who can tear defences apart with his running threat and passing range.

Kearney is content to have a world-class player back marshalling the Irish effort.

“He’s a fantastic player and he gets the backline going really well. I thought Keats did a really good job last week for his first game coming in. He got us a very well-earned win away in Italy.

“We might not have played superb rugby but the scoreline is really good. Johnny coming back in, he’s obviously a fantastic player. It will only add a huge amount of value to the team.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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