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

There are currently no matches being played
FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 27 April 2018
Hurricanes v Sunwolves 07h35 Wellington
Stormers v Rebels 13h00 Newlands
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 18h45 Welford Road
Sat, 28 April 2018
Reds v Lions 05h05 Suncorp Stadium
Blues v Jaguares 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Crusaders 09h45 Canberra
Kings v Cheetahs 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 14h00 Sandy Park
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins 14h00 Sixways
Gloucester v Bath 14h00 Kingsholm
Connacht v Leinster 14h05 Sportsground
Dragons v Scarlets 14h05 Rodney Parade
Bulls v Highlanders 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Treviso v Zebre 16h00 Stadio Monigo
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys 16h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Ulster 16h35 Thomond Park
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 Myreside
Sun, 29 April 2018
London Irish v Saracens 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Wasps v Northampton Saints 14h00 Ricoh Arena
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 22 April 2018
Racing Metro v Munster 27 | 22
Brumbies v Jaguares 20 | 25
Sat, 21 April 2018
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 36 | 15
Zebre v Ospreys 37 | 14
Sharks v Stormers 24 | 17
Leinster v Scarlets 38 | 16
Bulls v Rebels 28 | 10
Reds v Chiefs 12 | 36
Crusaders v Sunwolves 33 | 11
Fri, 20 April 2018
Waratahs v Lions 0 | 29
Blues v Highlanders 16 | 34
Sun, 15 April 2018
Saracens v Bath 41 | 6
London Irish v Exeter Chiefs 5 | 45
Sat, 14 April 2018
Leinster v Treviso 15 | 17
Kings v Cardiff Blues 12 | 45
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 5 5 0 0 26
Wales 5 3 0 2 15
Scotland 5 3 0 2 13
France 5 2 0 3 11
England 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 1