France target Irish back row, not Sexton

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:47
Large yannick bru 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: It is not Ireland's standout flyhalf Johnny Sexton who is France's major headache but their back row, French forwards coach Yannick Bru admitted on the eve of Saturday's Six Nations clash at Lansdowne Road.

The 31-year-old playmaker - who is making his return to action after five weeks on the sidelines with a calf injury - was the subject of some heavy hits in the 9-10 defeat last year in Paris which left the Irish camp furious at the inaction of the match officials.

However, Bru - who has been in his post since 2012 - said targeting Sexton had proved costly in the past.

"Each time we targeted him we made big mistakes and we won't make that error again," said Bru.

"We didn't really talk about him this week.

"We spoke about [Jamie] Heaslip, CJ Stander and Sean O'Brien.

"We know the real strengths of the Irish team and we saw that against Italy [63-10 victory] and Scotland [Irish lost 22-27] and Sexton was not there."

Bru, a classy hooker in his day winning 18 caps, said conquering the Irish back row trio would be pivotal as to whether France or their opponents realistically stayed in the hunt for the title as both enter the match having won one and suffered a defeat in their two matches.

Grand Slam holders England top the table having won both their games.  

"What we have to counter is the Irish back row's ability to play fast and well," said Bru.

"They have loads of speed and they are very skilled and they don't make many mistakes.

"We will try and defend effectively against them when they have the ball.

"It is a big challenge and one of the keys of the game," added the 43-year-old.

Bru, who won two European Cups and two French titles as Toulouse hooker under French head coach Guy Noves, said it was time for France to take the scalp of a big side after promising much in several games - notably against New Zealand and Australia last November - but falling short.

"We have gone close against several big fish but not caught them [since Noves took over] and we need to hook one of them if we are to progress as a squad," said Bru.  

Ireland have had the upper hand in recent years most notably when they beat them in their 2015 World Cup pool match.

"I have suffered a lot of nightmares since that match at the World Cup," said Bru.

"We are ready to face them as we have worked on our defence but they will challenge us on our ability to be physically ready on different phases.

"They know all about us and we know all about them there will be no surprises,"

Bru, who remained part of the coaching staff despite the departure of previous head coach Philippe Saint-Andre, said a significant factor that had changed from previous years was that the French squad were fresher.

"The fact that now the players don't have to play Top 14 matches inbetween Six Nations games has allowed them to rest and return refreshed," said Bru.

"Now we have the opportunity for the first time to train on the Monday and Tuesday of the week of matches.

"We will see whether we're a better team but we are more confident and our game plan has developed and the players have bought into it,"

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 24 February 2018
Sunwolves v Brumbies 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Chiefs 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Stormers 08h45 Allianz Park
Treviso v Connacht 12h00 Stadio Monigo
Lions v Jaguares 13h05 Johannesburg
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Ireland v Wales 14h15 Aviva Stadium
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 14h30 Twickenham Stoop
Gloucester v Wasps 14h30 Kingsholm
Bath v Sale Sharks 14h30 Recreation Ground
Bulls v Hurricanes 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Scotland v England 16h45 BT Murrayfield
Ospreys v Cheetahs 17h30 Liberty Stadium
Scarlets v Ulster 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
Sun, 25 February 2018
Zebre v Cardiff Blues 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
London Irish v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Leicester Tigers 15h30 Allianz Park
Fri, 02 March 2018
Blues v Chiefs 06h35 Eden Park
Reds v Brumbies 09h00 Suncorp Stadium
Kings v Dragons 17h35 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Edinburgh v Munster 19h35 Myreside
Cardiff Blues v Treviso 19h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 19h35 Kingspan Stadium
Harlequins v Bath 19h45 Twickenham Stoop
Sat, 03 March 2018
Sunwolves v Rebels 22h00 Tokyo
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 23 February 2018
France v Italy 34 | 17
Leinster v Kings 64 | 7
Dragons v Edinburgh 12 | 25
Munster v Glasgow Warriors 21 | 10
Rebels v Reds 45 | 19
Highlanders v Blues 41 | 34
Mon, 19 February 2018
NWU-Pukke v UJ 18 | 15
Maties v CUT-Ixias 75 | 12
UCT-Ikeys v Shimlas 27 | 32
NMMU-Madibaz v Wits 29 | 32
Sun, 18 February 2018
Dragons v Treviso 15 | 18
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 13 | 7
Sat, 17 February 2018
Cardiff Blues v Munster 25 | 18
Lions v Sharks 26 | 19
Leinster v Scarlets 20 | 13
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 2 2 0 0 9
England 2 2 0 0 9
Wales 2 1 0 1 6
France 3 1 0 2 6
Scotland 2 1 0 1 4
Italy 3 0 0 3 0