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Sunday 17 December 2017

Kearney: Strong start key against France

Ireland move from the frying pan into the fire when they travel from The Aviva Stadium to the Stade de France for what will be their second Six Nations match in six days.

Full-back Rob Kearney confirmed it was the vaunted Ireland defence, not the attack, that was "well below par" in last weekend's 23-21 defeat to Wales.

"Our defence let us down on the day. That is where we fell short. To be fair, our defensive record over the years has been pretty strong," he said.

"More often than not, you will find defence is a mindset. Okay, there were a couple of technicalities where we came up short. Some guys did things that you wouldn't normally expect from them.

"But, I think, 75pc of defence is the mindset. Maybe that is just what we were lacking a little bit."

The fallout led to a lot of soul-searching and the honesty of looking in the mirror and asking the painful question: what can I do better?

"We were more critical than usual," added Kearney. "That is a good thing. Sometimes you can focus on the positives a lot and talk about the team we can be.

"There comes a point sometimes when we have to be harsher on ourselves -- and we have been harsher."

Ireland cannot afford to travel with anything other than a true sense of perspective on where they are and what it will take to humble France in their own backyard.

Paris is a city where Ireland have had the sweet taste of winning just once in 40 years.

Kearney knows it is not going to be easy. But, nothing ever is in international rugby.

"It doesn't fill you with much confidence if you look at just the record. It is going to be broken at some stage," he said.



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"What always annoys me a little bit about Paris is you read reports after the game or we speak to each other after the game: 'Oh we could have won' or 'it was a heroic last 50 minutes from Ireland'."

The British & Irish Lions full-back is hitting his straps again. He was majestic under the high ball against Wales and powerful on the ball. He won't lack belief.

"The biggest point is not giving them a head start," he said. "That is what we always seem to do and we have to go chasing the game. It's unchaseable then. You can't give the French a 15-point lead because you're not going to get it back.

"Genuinely, we do believe we can beat them provided we have a strong start because the French, deep down, know what we are capable of at times.

"If we can get it going for 80 minutes, we could be in a really good place," he added, hinting at the leadership skills that are always there lurking beneath an ice-cool demeanour.

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