Six Nations: Fortune will favour the brave – and cautious – in Paris

Ireland plan to ‘go after’ France, says James Ryan, but will avoid ‘PlayStation rugby’

There was a common theme of bravery among some of the players in cold, wet Dublin. Andrew Conway, after two tries against Wales, spoke of his first score at full stretch and barely grounding on the line.

An element of risk-reward exists but wingers, he says, are there to score tries. He should know. His average is more than one every two games.

“I think you’ve got to have the balls to go and do what the right thing to do is at the time and not just step back inside because it’s easier and you want to retain ball,” said Conway.

James Ryan spoke of what mentality the team is forming for the trip to St Denis at the weekend, with players reacting to what's in front of them regardless of whether the numbers fully stack up or the positions are perfectly correct.

They don't want to play what Andy Farrell calls "PlayStation rugby", playing the plays for the sake of it. They want to play into space and do it early with heads up.

“I think our defence has maybe changed a little bit in that we’re not trying to have every box ticked before we get off the line and go after teams,” said the Irish secondrow.

“We’re just trying to be brave and go after teams, even when maybe we don’t have the perfect numbers or have the perfect picture.”

You don't want to give the French players time and space. You need to be ahead of the game with these guys. You can't be chasing the game or you're in big trouble

Going after France in Paris will be a sight to see. But if the confidence of Ryan and Conway is typical of the squad as a whole, and it appears to be, that’s just what they will do.

“We’re just trying to create as much pressure as we can and we’re looking to keep doing that. This week’s one we’ve looked at is our speed to our feet, our want to get back involved in the game defensively, our energy, can be better than it was on the weekend.

Mentality

“I think that mentality is huge for us, you know, the energy we can bring to our defence this weekend because you don’t want to give the French players time and space. You need to be ahead of the game with these guys. You can’t be chasing the game or you’re in big trouble.

“So that mentality to get after teams as much as we can and always looking to get back in the game would be one of the cornerstones of our defensive mentality.”

Ryan also has appetite and freshness. He missed the games against England and France last year, while the match against Wales was his first in 11 weeks.

There was some relief, too, that he came through last weekend without injury after 65 minutes against a physically tough Wales team. He felt it more in the first half. “Match fitness” moments he calls them, moments which are impossible to replicate away from competitive games.

There is also a creeping sense of assurance that the 29 points arrived in Aviva with the team making enough mistakes to know that better is easily attainable. Another level, which they may need against the French, is this week’s challenge.

“Big time. We were happy, it was a good start,” said Ryan. “Probably the good thing about it is, as Faz [Andy Farrell] said and he was right, it was a good start but there was a lot we could be better at.

Another level

“So it’s a good place to be with this week in mind. The general feeling was that we have another level in us so loads to improve on and work on and it’s an exciting week.

“This is one of the fixtures that you want to be involved in, away in the Stade de France. It’s such an amazing stadium, so it’s a great feeling to the week so far.”

There is just one cautionary tale and it goes back to Joe Schmidt's tenure. When Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time in Dublin, it seemed like the team floated into the Six Nations Championship on a pillow of euphoria and promise before crashing to reality again.

"In 2018 we beat New Zealand at home in the Aviva and it was a massive win, the first time on Irish soil . . . then we rocked up and got steamrolled in the first game of the Six Nations, " he says.

“So I think we’re pretty grounded and we know that it’s a new campaign now and it’s not starting again, but there can’t be any complacency. We’ve got to keep pushing forward.”

Bravery and caution – interesting bedfellows.