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Former Ireland international suggests a shift in tactics to counter France

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Monday Jan 29, 2024

One time capped Irish international centre James Downey has suggested that Ireland should fight fire with fire when they clash with France at The Stade Vélodrome on Friday evening.

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Known for his powerful carrying and monstrous defensive play, the former Northampton Saints stalwart said he felt Ireland should employ a 6 – 2 bench split.

The tactic, which was made popular by the Springboks, would allow Ireland to add more grunt to their side and would likely lead to the inclusion of Tadhg Beirne, Joe McCarthy, James Ryan, Ryan Baird, and Iain Henderson in the Irish 23.

When asked why he would shift away from the formula that saw Ireland run France off the park in 2023, Downey said, “It’s taking each game and saying, right where are the French strong and where do we have to win this game?

“We have to win this game up front, so we have to match them physically, and we do have some big boys there.

“They have some big calls to make; for that 6 – 2 (to work), the guys will have to expend every bit of energy they have out there.”

Explaining where the balance on the bench would come in, Downey said, “You have three front row players, so that’s three places gone, I think, depending on who you have there if you have a Ryan Baird, James Ryan, Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Beirne and you have Henderson as well.

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“There are some big experienced players there and I think purely for this game, I would analysis it and go look we’ll roll the dice a little bit because we have some versatile players.

“Frawley (Ciaran) comes into here if you do lose someone in the backs then we can move players around but the game is won upfront.

“You’ve got to get parity at least to win over there, and it’s going to be a tough ask already, so for me, it’s got to be 6 – 2 on the bench.”

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