Ireland fully fit for O'Driscoll farewell in Paris

PADRAIC HALPIN
Last updated 08:47 14/03/2014
Brian O'Driscoll
Reuters
PURE CLASS: Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll holds his young daughter as he says goodbye to Irish fans on his last home appearance.

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Ireland will travel to France with a full bill of health as they seek the victory that would almost certainly make them Six Nations champions and end Brian O'Driscoll's international career on a high.

After recovering from a narrow 13-10 defeat by England with a 46-7 thrashing of Italy, Ireland go to Paris with three wins and a +81 points difference, meaning any sort of victory for Joe Schmidt's team will likely bring their second title in 29 years.

Schmidt made one change to the side that hammered the Italians, with Munster's Peter O'Mahony returning from injury to take his place in the back row ahead of Iain Henderson. Ian Madigan also comes onto the bench in place of Paddy Jackson.

Ireland have beaten France away from home in once in 42 years, with their last victory coming 14 years ago when O'Driscoll, who was given an emotional send off in his final home game last weekend, scored a famous hat-trick.

"We don't dwell on the past. It's something you're probably aware of but at the same time we've been playing some really good rugby," Ireland captain Paul O'Connell told a news conference.

"We go there with a realistic amount of confidence knowing how good France are, but we're in a good place. It's a great position to be in. You want to go into the last game with your destiny in your own hands. It's a brilliant opportunity."

Despite playing poorly for most of the championship and in particular when they sneaked past Scotland last week, France are level with Ireland and England on six points going into the final round of matches.

O'Connell was keen to stress that the French still had some exceptional players despite what the form book might say, something Schmidt is also very conscious of.

Recalling how France went from losing to Tonga in the pool phase of the 2011 World Cup to almost beating his native New Zealand in the final, Schmidt said his title-chasing team should be prepared for a French backlash.

"We're conscious that the French press have been pretty tough on the French team and it probably doesn't help our cause to be honest, there's nothing worse than an angry French team," Schmidt said.

"When external forces start to put pressure on a group, it tends to galvanise them and they potentially come out and perform and we've seen French teams do that before, that is the type of talent they have."

IRELAND: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Dave Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Peter O'Mahony, Paul O'Connell (captain), Devin Toner, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Reserves: 1Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Jordi Murphy, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden. 

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