Rugby Union / Five Nations' Championship: Roumat-mongering makes visiting green party see red: Irish stirred up by French captain's arrogance

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The Independent Online
IT WILL have done Ireland no harm whatsoever that Olivier Roumat should make such an elementary tactical error before France open their defence of the Five Nations' Championship here today.

Roumat, the 27-year-old Dax lock, betrayed his naivety as a fledgling captain when he declared that France were looking for a victory in spades, something along the lines of their 44-12 win two years ago. 'We can only be satisfied if we are able to make this game a great spectacle,' Roumat said. 'If we were to beat Ireland 6-3 it would be considered a failure. Our aim is to win and entertain.' Perhaps he is trying to sell tickets which, for the first time since anyone can remember, are freely available for an international here.

It is easy to understand French complacency - Ireland have never won at Parc des Princes and have not won in Paris since 1972 - but it is unforgiveable to advertise the fact. The Roumat-mongering will be exploited by the Irish management, who like nothing better than to see their team being made the mangiest of underdogs. Pierre Berbizier, the French coach, who has been around a lot longer than Roumat, attempted to repair the damage. 'The players don't seem to realise how dangerous it is to have the slightest complacency. The Irish will be difficult adversaries. They have a good kicker, a good defence and ball-winning potential. You can beat a lot of teams with that. The players are talking about a spectacle but I'm just interested in winning. They have their heads in the clouds and they're going to come up against an Irish team which has both feet firmly on the ground.' Preferably not at the line-out.

Ireland were subjected to more high-handed treatment yesterday when their visit to the ground was curtailed to 15 minutes. They were allowed a brief walk-on role and Eric Elwood - 'the good kicker' referred to by Berbizier - was not allowed to practise his goal-kicking. The pitch was used last night for a football match between France's deadliest enemies, Paris St Germain and Olympique Marseille. All police leave was cancelled. Only the French rugby federation could get away with it.

Similarly, none of the home unions would have the brass nerve to announce, as the French did last week, that their players are to receive pounds 6,000 each to promote rugby. Bernard Lapasset, president of the French federation, said players would travel throughout France, conducting training sessions and getting involved in promotional work, and that the cash payments would conform with International Board guidelines. Yet the laws on amateurism only permit payment for non-rugby-related activities.

The French expect the championship decider to take place against England in Paris in March. France, having emerged from a shared series with the World Cup holders, Australia, are 1-10 with some bookmakers. But Gerry Murphy, Ireland's coach, points out that equally disparaging forecasts were made about Ireland when they entertained England last March.

Ireland, having beaten Wales in Cardiff, tormented England with a passion play remarkable for its intensity even by Dublin standards.

Lansdowne Road can have that effect. Parc des Princes has an equal but opposite effect. Ireland have since beaten Romania and thus, after being blitzed for 11 successive matches, have won three in a row.

However, while the Irish front row looks solid enough, the back row is one big experiment with Mick Galwey playing out of position at blind side and Ken O'Connell out of position, for his first cap, on the open side.

'This is going to be a lot less clear-cut than most people imagine,' Murphy maintained. Murphy has not played at Parc des Princes. Philip Matthews has. 'What I remember most is the moment when they had a stranglehold and the floodgates were about to open,' the former Irish captain recalls of his only appearance in Paris in 1988. 'We were lining up for a kick-off and I looked into the eyes of some of my team-mates. They had a dazed, bewildered look. A rugby pitch can be a very lonely place.'

--------------------------------------------------------------------- FRANCE v IRELAND (At Parc des Princes) --------------------------------------------------------------------- J-L Sadourny. . . . . . Colomiers 15 C O'Shea. . . . Lansdowne P Bernat-Salles. . . . . . . .Pau 14 R Wallace. . . .Garryowen P Sella. . . . . . . . . . . Agen 13 V Cunningham. . St Mary's College T Lacroix. . . . . . . . . . .Dax 12 P Danaher. . . .Garryowen P Saint-Andre. . . . .Montferrand 11 S Geoghegan. . .London Irish A Penaud. . . . . . . . . . Brive 10 E Elwood. . . . Lansdowne F Galthie. . . . . . . . Colomiers 9 M Bradley. . . .Constitution (capt) L Armary. . . . . . . . . .Lourdes 1 N Popplewell. . Greystones J-M Gonzales. . . . . . . .Bayonne 2 T Kingston. . . Dolphin P Gallart. . . . . . . . . Beziers 3 P Clohessy. . . Young Munster O Merle. . . . . . . . . .Grenoble 4 P Johns. . . . .Dungannon O Roumat. . . . . . . . .Dax, capt 5 N Francis. . . .Old Belvedere P Benetton. . . . . . . . . . Agen 6 M Galwey. . . . Shannon M Cecillon. . . . . . . . Bourgoin 8 B Robinson. . . Ballymena A Benazzi. . . . . . . . . . .Agen 7 K O'Connell. . .Sunday's Well --------------------------------------------------------------------- Replacements: 16 E N'tamack Replacements: 16 M McCall (Bangor), (Toulouse), 17 P Montlaur (Agen), 17 A McGowan (Blackrock College), 18 A Hueber (Toulon), 19 O 18 R Saunders (London Irish), Brouzet (Grenoble), 20 F Landreau 19 D Tweed (Ballymena) 20 G Halpin (Grenoble) 21 S Grauou (Auch) (London Irish), 21 K Wood (Garryowen). --------------------------------------------------------------------- Referee: J Fleming (Scotland). Kick-off: 2.0 GMT. TV: Live on BBC Northern Ireland. ---------------------------------------------------------------------