Northern Ireland

It's Paris in the spring for Ireland second time round

Thomas Kane in Paris
Image caption Thomas Kane is struggling to find many Irish connections in Paris this weekend

Looking at the weather forecast for Paris this week, I was relieved that I wouldn't need the mittens, scarf and thermals. In fact, this time around, I even considered packing sunglasses.

On our trip here three weeks ago, the temperature dipped to as low as minus six during the day, before plummeting at night, and the pebbles I dropped onto the waterways by the Stade de France were bouncing back from the frozen surface.

Despite the best endeavours of the French Rugby Federation, deploying covers and heaters on the pitch, and their repeated assurances that the game would go ahead, the elements eventually won the day. Trust me, it was Baltic.

While we had suspected that might be the case all along in the week's build-up to the game in a freezing French capital, the fact the postponement was only confirmed 10 minutes before the scheduled kick-off was a particularly bitter blow to both the players and supporters assembled that night.

The players were only told 30 seconds before they were due to run out, while the fans were informed 20 minutes after TV viewers sitting watching from the comfort (and warmth) of their own homes.

The fact that the multi-million pound stadium did not have undersoil heating was also a subject of much…er…heated debate, and when the date of the rescheduled match was announced on Valentine's Day, it led one Irish fan to tweet: "Ireland wear green, France wear blue, we have undersoil heating....why don't you!!!"

For the Irish players, it meant a three-week gap between the opening game defeat to Wales and last weekend's emphatic win over Italy.

Scrum-half Conor Murray told us last week that the extended time together without a competitive fixture had had some benefits: "We got another week together out of it to gel so we could take the positives out of the disappointment we felt in Paris.

"With the gap without games, we were tearing into each other, there has been a bit more contact in training than there would normally be and that's kept everyone sharp and on their toes."

Image caption The first game was called of because parts of the pitch at Stade de France were frozen

Sympathy lay most with the thousands of travelling Irish fans. The France away fixture is always the stand out trip for fans in the Six Nations. With it only happening every other year, for many of the supporters it is a trip that is the culmination of months of planning and no little financial outlay.

That Saturday night, I spoke to Irish fans who had made their journey from as far afield as Texas and Thailand. Despite the refund of tickets for the first game, many of the fans who made it to Paris three weeks ago, understandably, will not be able to afford to make the journey again this Sunday.

On the flight over this time, most of the passengers were en route to Disneyland Paris and not the Stade de France, ready for a weekend with Mickey and Goofy, not Bowe and Ferris.

It is really starting to feel like spring in Paris with the temperatures, remarkably, almost 20 degrees higher than three weeks ago. That said, there's little warmth Ireland can take from any recent visit to Paris - their record in France's capital makes for grim reading with just one win here since 1972 and two since 1952. France have won 11 of the last 12 games between the two sides.

"We've all been to hostile environments with our provinces in the past. We must drawn on that experience," said captain Paul O'Connell.

At least with the temperatures rising, it looks as if they won't have to battle the icy cold as well as the French come Sunday. And those supporters in green, those making it here at the second attempt and the ones who can't afford or arrange a repeat visit, really deserve a rare, famous victory.

If you are an Irish fan in Paris, let me know by tweeting@thomaskane1.

I'm off for another pain au chocolat. My GCSE French is proving very useful. Au Revoir Mes Amis, et Allez Les Verts!!!

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