Figuring out a reasonable game plan against the French has never been the forte of Irish coaches or captains. It won’t be on Saturday either.
However, at Mole Towers, we go to endless trouble to help out Deccie in any way we can. So here’s the accumulated wisdom of years on the ditch with an eye to Stade de France at 9pm on February 10th 2012.
It’s brutally cold with a bit of an easterly breeze (i.e. blowing diagonally across the pitch) causing a little drift on any very high kick.
So broad strokes first:
- Narrow the pitch
- Play 4/5 man line-outs with one backrow outside our open winger. Spread their forwards from this phase initially. Don’t let their pack stay together and gather momentum.
- Off short line-outs, have Sexton find Kearney, Trimble or Bowe with pass back inside. Keep possession in hand from the tackle / ruck and go back down the short-side but with lots of off-loads before contact. Use this 15 channel to pass before contact or pick and go.
- Box-kick occasionally off mauled line-out. Tackle the catcher towards touchline or compete for possession
- Attack their scrum-half
- Ferris, Heaslip or whoever is not a prime lifter at the back of the line-out on their ball must attack Parra by trying to cut off his outside pass or break. If Murray can also attack him from the front of the line-out, so much the better.
- Counter-ruck every static situation. Try to knock French forwards back on top of Parra at ruck / tackle time
- Target him for restart reception. Parra is critical to each French team he plays for because he always wants to dictate the tempo. It is critical that he feels under pressure after 10 mins and it continues for the remainder. A few verbal reminders wouldn’t go astray either because his English is good
- Mix up the positions that players receive the ball off first-phase attack
- Use Bowe or Trimble taking the ball in the 12 or 13 slot. Use Earls on the left wing if attacking on the left side of the pitch. Changing the challenge presented to a French defence may not always work in creating an opening but it creates doubt in their minds and convinces them that the Irish “have a plan”.
- Use Robert Kearney as first receiver off a back throw line-out a la Jamie Roberts. Again maybe not a clean line break every time but a very different challenge to Darce or Earls and keeping the French thinking.
- Use back-row forward in the outside channel off 3rd or 4th phase possession and look purely to punish their back-three in defending the challenge
- Take your points at every opportunity
- Drop goals, penalties it doesn’t matter. Keeping our points tally moving is something the French think we do not do or think about.
- Target Vincent Clerc
- Nothing personal you understand, but this guy has had enough big days against us to have a laugh about one bad one. We should target him with big runners when he is in a blind-side position; cross kicks – long or short – should be kicked to his wing regularly throughout the game. Trimble & Bowe have so much class in the air we must get some result from this.
These specific tactic don’t amount to a gameplan, but that should remain the same as against Wales – even if it was not executed well by the players.
To think that we have enough to play our own game against teams and win on our own terms is nor just naivety, it’s arrogance. We need to target specific elements of the French selection and their game plan, because they’ll sure as sh*t be targeting us. You can change your approach by either introducing new personnel or by changing your tactics; we’ve made just one personnel change.