Paul O’Connell doesn’t ask you a question unless he knows what answer to expect.

And Dave Kilcoyne didn’t need to wait to give his when his former team-mate’s shadow loomed in the elevator of the Irish team’s Cardiff hotel.

“Are you ready kid?” muttered O’Connell with those steely eyes fixed on the chubby-faced prop.

No better place to get a lift.

It had taken him a year to get back here, and pain that was at times unbearable.

How could he not be ready?

“Faz likes that little bit of pressure, those situations where players drop out and you see how lads react,” he tells us.

No more than his club colleague Conor Murray, there’s little point in being able if you can’t be ready to take a chance at a moment’s notice.

“The squad is in such a place now, it’s next man up. You see it in training during the week, how competitive it is.

“We said in Portugal when we were training both teams against each other, you wouldn’t know which team was playing against Wales, which is a great headache for the coaches. It’s in a great spot.”

As is he.

“I had massive belief in myself and that I would get back in if I could get back fit,” says the 34-year-old Munster man.

“I had a bad injury at the end of the Six Nations last year. I had to get two discs shaved in my neck.

“Then you’re out for a considerable time, you’re looking on and seeing what the team is building, what Faz had built.

“It was the worst injury I’ve ever had. I lost power down my hand through getting those disks shaved and it was unnerving at times, wondering would the power ever come back.

“It was a couple of months with the great S&C and rehabs coaches down in Munster and it just wasn’t coming and wasn’t coming, then all of a sudden it came.

“Once I saw a bit of light, I went with it and built myself back up and worked away to try get back in. So I’m feeling very fortunate to be in here.

“The saying, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, that really resonates with me now.

“You’re out of the environment through injury or selection or whatever, then when you get the second crack at it to get back in, you want to take it with both hands and make sure you’re in here as long as you can be.

“I was chatting to Peter O’Mahony the other day at dinner, everyone talks about how good an environment it is here, and it’s not rubbish.

“It actually is a real enjoyable place to be, but that comes from the top down. Faz has got great people in, and it filters down to the players.

“It’s such a good place to come in and get better every day. When I wasn’t involved, you’re watching on and desperate to get back in.

“Fortunately, I just put my head down, and worked away, and got myself back in. It’s where you want to be, it’s an incredible environment, and a tough task this weekend.”

Ah, mais oui. The French will unveil their heavy artillery in Dublin, eager to pummel a force they have subdued in each previous meeting against an Andy Farrell coached side.

“Yeah, it’s a huge area. There’s no shying away from the French scrum, you look at the Top 14, you look at France, it’s what they base their game around so it’s going to be a big challenge for us but we’ll put all the steps in to be prepared for it.”

David Kelly’s Six Nations diary: England’s coaching turnover, return of Jones, and Laporte’s unexpected visit Atmosphere at the Aviva needs to match the occasion for Ireland v France

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