Andrew Matthews
history lesson

Stade de France set to host two of Ireland's greatest sporting moments of 2016

Both this weekend’s Six Nations clash and Ireland’s Euro 2016 curtain-raiser are being staged at the Paris ground.

SOMEWHERE IN THE region of 10,000 Ireland fans are expected to make the trip to Paris this weekend as the current Six Nations holders take on Les Bleus this afternoon

We may be only one week into this year’s championship, but the result is sure to have a major say in whether or not Joe Schmidt’s side are realistically capable of winning an unprecedented three consecutive titles.

It also represents the first of two major Irish sporting events at the Stade de France in the coming months as the Boys in Greens’ Euro 2016 Group E opener against Sweden will be contested on the very same famous Saint-Denis pitch on 13 June.

Despite the fact that it has only just turned 18 years old, France’s national stadium, which was originally built for the 1998 World Cup finals, has already stage some mammoth occasions between the two countries.

Four months before Zinedine Zidane led the hosts to a remarkable triumph over favourites over Brazil, their rugby counterparts were 18-16 winners over Ireland on their way to a second Six Nations Grand Slam on the trot.

In fact, it wouldn’t be until 19 March, 2000, that Ireland tasted victory at the 81,338-seater venue for the first time when a fresh-faced 21-year-old by the name of Brian O’Driscoll ran over a hat-trick of tries for on a momentous day for Warren Gatland’s side.

Eirchive / YouTube

The footballers produced arguably their finest performance of the Brian Kerr era in October 2004 when an Ireland team containing Kevin Kilbane alongside the returning Roy Keane in midfield held the French to a 0-0 draw with Clinton Morrison coming close on two occasions. 

The countries were then grouped together in Pool D of the 2007 Rugby World Cup and it was the host nation who ran out 25-3 thanks to a brace of tries from Vincent Clerc.

A game at the Stade de France two years later that still sticks in the minds of Irish fans — and for all the wrong reasons as Thierry Henry’s infamous handball led to the goal which robbed the nation of a place at the 2010 World Cup. 

France Ireland Wcup Soccer Thierry Henry and Nicklas Anelka help a devastated Richard Dunne up off the ground in 2009. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

And then there was the far-less controversial but nearly as unusual incident during the 2012 Six Nations when the game between the French and Declan Kidney’s Ireland was called off just minutes before kick-off due to a frozen pitch.

France Ireland Rugby Six Nations A heating machine is used in an effort to defreeze the pitch moments before the game is cancelled. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

To-date, Ireland have won at the Stade de France just twice and the most recent of which saw Brian O’Driscoll end his glittering international career on a high as they clinched the title with a 22-20 win.

Jonny Sexton scored 17 of those points with two converted tried and a penalty.

France Ireland Six Nations Rugby O'Connell and O'Driscoll lift the Six Nations trophy in 2014. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

In more recent times, the Stade de France and the city of Paris were shook by the terrorist attacks of last November which claimed the lives of 130 people.

After the first bomber was discovered by a security guard, three separate explosions went off near the stadium during a friendly international between France and Germany. The three bombers were killed as well as one bystander, but it is miracle the death toll wasn’t higher.

France Paris Shootings Fans stand on the pitch shortly after the Paris attacks back in November. Christophe Ena Christophe Ena

Despite ongoing fears of further attacks, fans haven’t been deterred for the main part as the sheer numbers travelling over this weekend and the demand for tickets for Euro 2016 shows.

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