Ireland fullback Rob Kearney says the team have spoken about their form, and feels it is more a mental problem than an issue with their game plan or style of play. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

DUBLIN – Ireland fullback Rob Kearney admits to some “nerves and frustration” ahead of their home Six Nations clash against France on Saturday, with the defending champions yet to hit top gear in this year’s competition.

Ireland, so dominant on their way to the Grand Slam last year and in beating New Zealand in the November Internationals, lost their tournament opener to England and have been less than convincing in wins over Scotland and Italy since.

It led to an on-field outburst from flyhalf Johnny Sexton towards the end of the Italy clash, but Kearney played down suggestions that morale in the side was low.

“That’s Johnny, isn’t it? We’re a little bit used to it,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “We all get frustrated, and we all show our frustration in different ways. I’ve played with Johnny for 15 odd years, so I’m the wrong person to ask.

“Johnny understands the game very well, and is very clear in how he wants to play it. That’s his way of communicating it.”

Kearney says the team have spoken about their form, and feels it is more a mental problem than an issue with their game plan or style of play.

“Sport is very, very psychological. Sometimes in those games, particularly the Italian game... a lot of the mistakes, and the fact we went into our shell and showed a little bit of anxiety, that’s all psychological,” he added.

France have picked the same team that defeated Scotland 27-10 in Paris last time out, and that rare continuity from coach Jacques Brunel will be a boost to the visitors, according to Kearney.

“We’ll probably get the best French performance we have seen in the Championship so far, it’s unusual for them to pick the same side two weeks in a row,” the fullback said.

“It is a huge show of confidence from the coach in that group, so we are expecting a pretty good French side.”

Reuters