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Wednesday 24 May 2017

Cronin: Brains have to defy the brawn

Cronin says Irish scrum will stand up to French

Seán Cronin
Seán Cronin

It is a double-edged sword to mourn the loss of French flair to the international game.

To long for that thing that entertained, while also causing the misery of defeat.

Woe betide the Six Nations, and even world rugby, when the French get their act together to blend in the modern demands for physical fitness, tactical detail, discipline and a skill-based attack worked into a well-structured game-plan.

In the professional era, France have followed the Anglo-Saxon virtues of size and strength without holding onto the skills that make it a unique entity.

In the meantime, the French have lost their aura of invincibility that meant tears in Paris for the Irish every second year from Stade Colombes in 1972 to Stade de France in 2000.

Unbeaten

There was also the unbeaten record, home and away, between 1984 and 1999, a stretch of 17 internationals.

At present, Ireland have won three of their last four matches against Les Bleus.

Coach Guy Noves has encouraged a return to the natural off-loading gene natural to the French.

It could have and should have brought about their first win in Twickenham since 2007.

The most outstanding aspect of France in this Six Nations is the sheer size and power of their forward pack.

More specifically, they have terrorised England and Scotland at scrum time.

It is an area in which they always look to assert their manliness.

The outcome of this contest within the contest will go a long way towards revealing which of France or Ireland will still be in the Championship at the final whistle.

Ireland's impact hooker Seán Cronin will watch on from the stands at The Aviva with interest.

The biggest scrum in the Six Nations will be met head-on by the most technical scrum to decide which is the best.

"We will rely on what we have in our technical nous, the level of detail we bring.

"They probably have the raw size and physical power," said Cronin.

"It is two interesting perspectives on how to attack the scrum. It has been an area of strength for us.

"I was at the Scotland game and we blew them away in the scrum.

"Tadhg (Furlong) went really well, as all the lads did, and they backed it up against Italy with a couple of changes, Cian Healy and Niall Scannell coming in.

"It is about keeping that kind of form and backing ourselves, having the confidence that what we're doing is good enough."

No matter which eight forwards France put out, there will be an onus on the boys in green to stand up to their giant steamrollers.

"Every test match has its' challenges," said Cronin.

"I'm sure the lads will sit down and get a plan together in how to go about it."

Besides, it is not just the front row that has to front-up when the big squeeze comes on.

"CJ Stander is one of the best scrummaging back rowers I've come across.

"Peter O'Mahony is very strong. Seánie (O'Brien) too. They all love it, geeing up the lads. You can see it in their body position after they have engaged."

It has become part of Ireland's one-in, all-in policy at the scrum where it is not just down to the front five, but all eight.

"They are the kind of standards Greg Feek sets inside in the set-up. It's an eight-man buy-in. It is not just the three men up front."

Ireland can make up for their lack of weight-per-man with superior application from all eight men on deck.

"It is simple physics," said the Limerickman.

"If you come up against a scrum that has eight men on and their body positions are as good as their props, it is going to be a hard day at the office.

"It has been a real area of strength for us and, hopefully, the lads can keep that up against France.

"That would set us up nicely for going forward in that match."

In terms of the Championship, both nations have won one out of two and cannot afford to drop another game.

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