By now fans will be all too familiar with the narrative that has been repeated over and over going into the final round of the 2014 Six Nations: Playing in France is jinxed for Ireland, and they'll have to beat history in order to win the Six Nations.
Rest assured, they will.
Ireland have only beaten Les Bleus once in Paris since 1972, as reported by The Guardian, and this Saturday the French will be the only thing standing in their way in their effort to reclaim the tournament crown from the Welsh team.
Really, the story couldn't be more perfect. Brian O'Driscoll's retirement, an underachieving French juggernaut who suddenly has a chance at winning the whole thing in front of a fiery home crowd. Hollywood wishes it had come up with this.
There's just one minor issue: The French have looked positively awful all tournament.
A win over England in Round 1 failed to convince pundits, with Les Bleus needing a miracle last-minute try from Gael Fickou to overcome a young, inexperienced side. Victories over Scotland and Italy were equally unconvincing, and a thorough thrashing at the hands of Wales revealed a serious lack of creativity, as explained by Jeremy Guscott for the BBC:
The French national side used to have a DNA; a definite, exciting way of playing.
But this has been coached out of them over the last decade. I've no idea why. Whatever the reason, watching France at the moment is like watching clowns at the circus.
Most of their tries have been from turnovers. They've hardly created anything themselves - at least, very little they've been able to turn into points. They made six or seven line-breaks against Wales, which should be enough to score a couple of tries. But they couldn't even manage that.
Simply put, the French squad hasn't looked like a prime contender for the title all tournament. The victories over both England and Scotland came down to sheer luck, with the Scots in particular practically gifting the win to France with an errand pass and a late Jean-Marc Doussain penalty.
Ireland, meanwhile, have enjoyed a fine tournament so far, but a close loss to England in Round 3 has set up this dreaded final match against the French. As former outside-half Tony Ward told The Guardian, it is the one scenario the team wanted to avoid.
The pressure will be on the Irish team and with history staring the team in the face, this match will not be an easy one. But as pundit Brent Pope puts it, this French squad doesn't look like a team capable of pulling off the upset:
Wales could beat England? Ireland will beat France. French rugby without passion and fire at the moment, last 2 years actually— Brent Pope (@RealBrentPope) March 9, 2014
As reported by The Telegraph, Peter O'Mahony will be fit to return to the starting line-up, and the Irish squad looks ready to give O'Driscoll the kind of send-off a legend deserves.
France might have history on their side, but Ireland have all the momentum coming into this tie and have looked like the better team since the start of the tournament. As The Mirror's Brian McNally put it:
Suicidal Scotland chucked away win against France by gifting that schoolboy intercept. My cash was on Ireland for the title & I'm confident— Brian McNally (@McNallyMirror) March 8, 2014
No, history isn't on Ireland's side, but this team is more than capable of breaking a trend that has haunted them for decades. And to do it in O'Driscoll's final match in the Irish shirt? That might be the best narrative of them all.