Be brave Ireland, says Irish rugby legend O'Gara

Dublin (AFP) –


Ireland have to be "braver than usual" in their potential Six Nations title decider with France in Paris on Saturday, Irish rugby great Ronan O'Gara told The Irish Times.

The 43-year-old United States-born former playmaker knows both sides well as he is head coach of Top 14 club La Rochelle.

He says the hosts and the Irish can throw caution to the wind to a certain extent as their game at an empty Stade de France is "a shoot-out for gold".

Ireland can seal the title in head coach Andy Farrell's first Six Nations in overall charge with a bonus-point win over the French -- they have a one-point advantage over both their opponents and England.

The French, who have been revived since Fabien Galthie took over after last year's World Cup, probably require a bonus-point win themselves to have a chance of lifting the trophy.

England are likely to secure maximum points against Italy, who are yet to register a point, and the title may come down to points difference between them and the French.

O'Gara, though, believes the days an Irish side trembled at the thought of playing France in Paris are long over. A stunning 41-phase move resulted in Johnny Sexton dropping a sublime goal for a last-second 15-13 win two years ago.

However, the 128-times capped O'Gara -- who scored the winning drop goal when the Irish won only their second Grand Slam in 2009 -- said Ireland are obliged to be more expansive this time as they need four tries for the bonus point.

"Ireland have to score tries and if you know you have to score tries you have to have a Plan B, C and D up your sleeve to try to break France down and get your scores," he said.

"It's kind of 'all in' on this occasion.

"They're in a shoot-out for gold. It's not about getting a bronze this weekend.

"There's everything to play for.

"If you score three tries after 75 minutes and you force a pass and they intercept and score the other way and you lose the game, I think you can live with that.

"There's a huge reward in being braver than usual as long as there's a bit of smarts with it."

- 'Method to their so-called madness' -

O'Gara, who cut his teeth in the coaching ranks in the backroom staff of Top 14 outfit Racing 92 and then in New Zealand with Crusaders, says it is too close to call.

"This is a French team who are confident and they are playing with a lot of belief, and a lot of tempo and X-factor.

"I genuinely make it a 50-50 game because I think there's vulnerabilities in both teams.

"France, most definitely, have more X-factor but I think Ireland are far more disciplined."

O'Gara, though, says former France skipper Galthie has seemingly resolved a problem that has dogged the French through the years.

"What really impressed me about France last week against Wales is how good they looked when they turned it on," he said.

"I haven't seen them look like that before.

"And they looked trained to do it.

"There's a lot of method to their so-called madness nowadays."