The Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien has declared that "losing is not an option" when Ireland attempt to rescue a deflating Six Nations campaign by inflicting further embarrassment on France in Dublin today.
Two teams who, before the tournament began, were expected to challenge for the title instead find themselves in a desperate struggle to avoid the wooden spoon.
It has been 15 years since Ireland finished bottom of the table, but that is the fate that may await them in Rome next Saturday if they fail to topple France, who are themselves yet to win a match in this year's tournament. History is stacked against them, though, as they have bettered Les Bleus only once in 13 meetings spanning a decade.
A self-destructive streak, combined with an awful injury list, has seen a Six Nations campaign that exploded into life in Cardiff five weeks ago unravel alarmingly, moving O'Brien to demand an end to Ireland's malaise.
"We know what we have to do against France – losing is not an option," the Lions contender said. "There is a pride element and we're playing at home. If we win the last two games we leave ourselves in a good enough place. Hopefully that starts this weekend.
"We need to come out of the traps nice and hard. After the disappointment of losing to England and Scotland, everyone's up for it. I don't care about how France have been doing or where they finish up, it's about us, this team and this squad. All I'm worried about is making sure we're in the right place this weekend."
O'Brien says Ireland have adopted a by-any-means-necessary approach to the France game, adding: "To win any international you have to beat up the opposition. Physically, we'll have to go to that place where it's manic and they don't know what's coming at them."
Jamie Heaslip, the Ireland captain, has admitted his team must shoulder some of the blame for the muted atmosphere at their home ground during the Six Nations.
Alan Quinlan, the former Ireland back row, was highly critical of the Aviva Stadium supporters' lack of interest before the defeat by England four weeks ago. But Heaslip believes it is the players who must set the tone when the Championship's two most disappointing sides collide.
"The players always feel as though it's a great crowd when we come here. Maybe we didn't give them a lot to cheer about in the England game," Heaslip said. "Hopefully, we'll give them something to cheer about at the game. The crowd here and when we travel is amazing. They're a passionate group, like all Irish people."
If Ireland are feeling dour about this Six Nations campaign, then France are utterly in the doldrums. And Philippe Saint-André, the coach, has admitted he would gladly take an ugly, dull, lifeless performance – as long as it results in a victory.
"The France team has a duty to win in style. But in our current situation I would sign for a 3-0 win straight away," Saint-André said. "You've got to make your own luck. We didn't face up to the situation in the first three matches."Reuse content