Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Ireland's influential center pairing may miss France match

AFP AND AP , PARIS AND DUBLIN

Ireland's talismanic captain Brian O'Driscoll has gone on the record to say that the gulf between the Irish First XV and second one is not as big as it was -- his theory may well be put to the test next weekend when the pre-tournament favorites face defending Six Nations champions France.

O'Driscoll himself may not make the match after feeling a twinge in his hamstring during the opening 19-9 win over 2005 Grand Slam winners Wales on Sunday and outstanding center partner Gordon D'Arcy is also a doubt with a groin problem.

A scan on Monday revealed that O'Driscoll's right hamstring was only mildly strained and he will be given until Saturday to prove his fitness.

While Ireland do have more strength in depth than in previous generations, if they are shorn of O'Driscoll and D'Arcy with doubts also over scrumhalf Peter Stringer, France is the last side to be facing.

However, Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan refuses to believe that the Irish performance was disappointing as many suggested and that France's 39-3 demolition of Italy was not as impressive as it looked.

"I thought they [France] were slow out of the blocks and, in fairness, Italy should have had six points on the board. They [Italy] weren't far away from a try and suddenly they were 6-0 down after a turnover," O'Sullivan said.

"That knocked the stuffing out of Italy. Once France got a grip on the game, got a bit of rhythm into their attack and got Italy on the backfoot they really were in control of the game," he said.

"We feel the exact same about next week. If we let France play like they like to play, it's a very difficult day. You've got to take the momentum away from them," explained O'Sullivan, whose team are aiming to become the first Ireland side since 1948 to complete a Grand Slam.

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