Friday night fever: Can Ireland shock France?

The Irish Rugby team may have won their two opening World Cup games, but they have been criticised after two lacklustre displays. Now all eyes aree on Friday as Ireland have a chance to atone in a do-or-die showdown with hosts France. Sports Editor Seamus Duke asked some well-known sports enthusiasts how they thought the big game might go … Mick Silke (Athlone)   ‘I was reasonably optimistic about Ireland’s chances before the tournament started but I’m not so optimistic now! We have looked leaden-footed in our two games so far and all we can hope is that there is one really big game in us. This is a cup final because both teams have to win so hopefully we can rise to the occasion.    ‘I’m glad that there have been a few changes and they will freshen up the team and that was badly needed. On the form so far there can only be one winner but I’m hopeful that the spirit of the Irish team will drive them on to a good performance.’  Paula Keane (Roscommon)   ‘ France will win it. I’m very surprised that Ireland have been so poor in this tournament. I am also very disappointed to hear that Peter Stringer is not playing. He has been the backbone of the Irish team for many years and it will not be the same without him.    ‘I can’t explain what has happened to the Irish team since they went out to this World Cup. A few months ago they were a great team but the World Cup has been such a flop. I hope they put up a good show on Friday but it’s hard to see them winning it.’  Michael Oates (Roscommon)   ‘It’s very difficulat to see anything other than a comfortable French victory the way things have gone. I think the problems can be traced back to the Munster v Leicester game in the Heineken Cup. The Munster players on the Irish team seem to have been low on confidence since that game and it’s affecing the Irish team in general.    ‘I am not a great follower of Malcolm O’Kelly but I think he should be playing in this game. I would love to see Ireland put up a greally good show but I doubt if that’s going to happen. Even if they had done well against Georgia  there would be more hope for the French game. It’s a pity because Ireland were a good side only a short time ago.’  Billy Brandon (Creggs)  ‘It’s an interesting game surely. Both sides’ backs are to the wall and it will be inetersting to see who reacts best. Ireland have to perform in this game and it will all depend on which French team turn up on the night. If the good French team turn up then we could be well beaten because when they are on fire they can blow you out of the water.    ‘Ireland have been very poor so far but in common with everyone else I’m  hoping that there is a big game in the team. This is the day to do it. It’s hard to know why Ireland have been so poor but let’s hope they can rise to it on  Friday’.  Albert Looby Junior (Roscommon)  ‘We are up against it, that’s for sure. However one thing that might be in our favour is that the weather forecast is for a lot of rain and wind and that might even the teams up. If the French get a dry pitch to play running rugby then they will murder you altogether.    ‘It is also a huge gamble playing Eoin Reddan. He and Ronan O’Gara have never played a test match together and this is some baptism of fire for the new partnership. I’m hoping that there might be a big performance in this Irish team and that it will come on Friday night or else we will probably be out of the competition.’ Adrian Leddy (Roscommon)  ‘I feel that Ireland will win it. The reason is I feel that there is a big game in this Irish side, they haven’t become a bad team overnight. They will be out to prove to the Irish public that they can do it. I don’t rate the French team as a good side. I believe they are beatable. We ran them close and should have beaten them in Croke Park earlier in the year. ‘It was always going to come down to the French and Argentina games and it’s now more important that we have to beat both France and Argentina and there’s a lot of significance in Friday night if Ireland is to progress in the World Cup tournament.’