|Lieu: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday October 31 Start: 20h05 GMT|
|Blanket: Live on BBC Two then BBC One with live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio Ulster and BBC Sounds as well as live text on the BBC Sport website and app.|
James Ryan was backed to lead Ireland’s charge for Six Nations glory against France in Paris on Saturday.
Forwards coach Simon Easterby has hailed Ryan as an increasingly influential leader within the team.
“James Ryan sets incredibly high standards for himself and for others. He has developed as a leader in what he says, but more importantly in what he does, ”said Easterby.
Ireland can claim a fourth title in seven years with a bonus points victory.
Ireland have only beaten the Blues 12 times in France, but two of those wins have come in the past seven years.
Brian O’Driscoll tasted the perfect farewell from the Test with the 22-20 victory that sealed Ireland’s Six Nations title in 2014, while Johnny Sexton’s monster booty after 41 overtime stages won a 15-13 victory in 2018.
Former Irish flanker Easterby suffered several miserable defeats in Paris, but believes that the new generation of Irish players do not harbor any of those Gallic ghosts of yesteryear.
Lock Ryan embodies the confident allure of the new breed, with 21 wins in his 27 tests, leaving Easterby backing the 24-year-old to lead Ireland’s Paris charge.
“Some of the games we’ve won, he’s gone off the pitch and has always been extremely disappointed in some ways because he has incredibly high standards,” added Easterby.
“He has developed himself, and with others, to become an integral part of our team. I think it’s a compliment to James that all the players want to follow him in whatever he does.
“He took his responsibilities with Leinster and us, and he took it in his stride.
“There aren’t many places he’d be afraid to go, and that’s the mark of the man himself, that he’s a young man of age but is capable of delivering. .
“At a young age he’s definitely going in the right direction and he’s someone everyone wants to follow in battle. “
“No fear factor” at the Stade de France
Easterby believes Ireland will face an empty Stade de France given the continued shutout of the coronavirus on fans, insisting that visitors will put aside all thoughts of this tryout bonus in order to have a chance of victory.
“The crowd would have been unique, that’s my experience,” said Easterby. And then it will be unique for the players to see that they are not there.
“There will be players who have been there in the past who have won, and players who have been there in the past and lost.
“But there will also be players who have never been there before. And they won’t have any problems with the Stade de France.
“It’s clearly an awesome place, and when we got there today the players who weren’t there before got it all. But there shouldn’t be a fear factor.
“It just presents us with a great opportunity to go and express ourselves and win a rugby match.
“And then if we need to take some things out of the game, obviously we have to. “
‘Focus on winning the match first’
If England picked up a bonus point over Italy earlier on Saturday, only a five points – an Irish win with four tries – will be enough to secure a first Six Nations success under coach Andy Farrell.
“If you go chasing after things it can often be a distraction so we have to start the game well, we have to seize the opportunities when they arise.
“Coming to Paris and getting a win is something that Irish teams haven’t had huge success with over the past 20 years. But we saw in 2018 that we were staying in the game and we were able to win the game late.
“It may not be the case tomorrow, the game may open up a bit.
“So we have to focus first on winning the game, and then after that we probably re-evaluate at half-time how the game is going.
“The players have all the license to make the right decisions on the pitch, and at the right time, Johnny (Sexton) and the other leaders will. “