Lievremont keeps faith

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Lievremont keeps faith

France coach Marc Lievremont has retained the same 23-man squad that were thrashed 34-10 by England for Saturday’s Six Nations match against Italy in Rome.

France, who were a shadow of the team that beat Wales so impressively two weeks ago, had their outside championship hopes dashed by England at Twickenham and the title will now be decided in Cardiff next Saturday where Wales have to beat Ireland by 13 points to retain their crown.

The only injury doubt appears to be hooker where Benjamin Kayser is struggling with a neck problem.

French squad -
Forwards: Sylvain Marconnet, Lionel Faure, Thomas Domingo, Fabien Barcella, Dimitri Szarzewski, Benjamin Kayser, Jerome Thion, Sebastien Chabal, Lionel Nallet (captain), Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir, Imanol Harinordoquy, Julien Bonnaire.
Backs: Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Morgan Parra, Francois Trinh-Duc, Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion, Mathieu Bastareaud, Damien Traille, Julien Malzieu, Cedric Heymans, Maxime Medard.

Kidney happy with Slam hype

Ireland coach Declan Kidney has encouraged his players to embrace the pressure heaped on them by the prospect of a Grand Slam.

Ireland face Wales at the Millennium Stadium and if they topple the defending champions, it will be their first clean sweep in 61 years. Kidney is acknowledged as a positive thinker and he has told his players to appreciate the build-up.

“I won’t be shielding the players from the pressure. This is a week to be enjoyed,” said Kidney.

“If you don’t enjoy times like this you won’t enjoy anything, but admittedly this is new territory for everybody.”

Wales can reclaim the title if they beat the Irish by 13 points or more and Kidney claimed the Welsh were favourites for the decider.

“Our job is to stay professional. We’ll prepare the same way for this one as we did with every other match. I’m surprised that we have four wins given where we were in November when I thought the confidence of the team wasn’t great.

“At Christmas we talked about the bit of honesty that we needed and against France we generated a bit of momentum,” he said.

“Wales will be tough. I’ll be accused of mind games but they are defending Grand Slam champions and are playing at home.

“They’re playing for the championship, for the Triple Crown and have rested most of their players this week.”

Stringer: No 2003 repeat

Peter Stringer believes Ireland are in a better position to claim the Grand Slam than they were when they failed in 2003.

The scrumhalf started his first game for the Irish in this year’s competition against Scotland and set up the crucial second-half try as they extended their unbeaten run to four with a 22-15 win at Murrayfield.

Stringer was also a part of the side that faced England in the pivotal match six years ago, when the Irish slumped 42-6 in front of their own fans, but says the survivors from that game will not allow a repeat.

Stringer, Geordan Murphy, Brian O’Driscoll, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara are all likely to be in the squad for Saturday’s trip to Wales and their presence will be key to the Irish.

‘Going into that match, we found ourselves in a position we hadn’t been in for a long while,’ said Stringer. ‘But this squad has come a long way since then.

‘We have a lot more experienced heads going into this game. We hope we won’t let the occasion get us carried away.

‘A Grand Slam or a championship is something we’ve targeted. We’ve been fortunate enough to come away with a few Triple Crowns – which is a good stepping stone for this, but this is another level. We want this so much.

‘It will be a massive occasion – we’re playing the Grand Slam champions in their own back yard, and it’s not going to be easy.’

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