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Ireland Prepare for Monster Battle Up-front Against France

Last updated: February 23, 2017 by Leon Marshal

Game details

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Kick-off: Saturday, 16:50 (GMT)
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Coverage: ITV, BBC
Home form: WLLLW
Away form: WWLLW
Last season: France 10 – 9 Ireland
Competition: RBS Six Nations

With both sides having made amends for disappointing defeats in the first round by following up with convincing wins in the second, this Saturday’s clash between Ireland and France at the Aviva Stadium is shaping up to be a real cracker. Ireland outclassed Italy for the vast majority of the match in Rome almost a fortnight ago as they ran in 9 tries, recording a thumping 63-10 victory. France, although made to work harder for their win, eventually made their dominance in the forwards tell as they rumbled on in the last quarter to claim a 22-16 result over Scotland in Paris on the same weekend. With four teams each having won one and lost one as we approach round 3, results this weekend will prove to be crucial in the later stages. Nothing short of a win will do for Schmidt and Novès as both nations prepare to do battle and keep their Six Nations title hopes alive.

To a larfe degree, Ireland were made to look good in round two. Italy failed to deliver the accuracy, the discipline and the resolve needed for them to remain competitive for the full 80 minutes in Rome and, as a result, suffered a major hammer blow. In spite of this, Ireland, spurred by their disappointing loss to Scotland a week earlier, set out to prove that their campaign for the Six Nations title is far from over, which they did in emphatic style. They played with the kind of pace and precision that meant they were able to break the Italian defensive line almost at will; they were surgical at the breakdown, which meant they could get quick ball and gradually wear down the Azzurri forwards, and their solid set piece gave them a strong platform of attack. The return of Jonathan Sexton in place of Paddy Jackson will add even more potency to the Irish attack and ensure that they play the game in the right areas of the field. If they can match Guy Novès’s side up front – and that is a big if – and hold firm in the scrum they’ll put themselves in a great position to win the game in front of what will be, as ever, a fired-up Irish crowd.

After a promising but incomplete performance against England in the opening round the French now look as though they’ve settled into the competition. Captain Guilhem Guirado, along with Scott Spedding and Lois Picamoles, are all playing with a firm conviction and leading from the front, which is allowing some of the lesser experienced faces in the likes of Serin, Gourdon and Camille Lopez to express themselves and influence the game. Against Scotland, France demonstrated the sheer power of their scrum and their ability to slow the pace of the game and gain ascendency over the gain line with their big runners whilst, at times, relying on their intuitive offloading and expansive play. The win was exactly what France needed after a number of closely fought losses to set their mentality right. If they are now to record what would be a fantastic away victory over Ireland on Saturday afternoon they must balance the power of their forwards with the spatial awareness and flair of their backs as they did against the All Blacks in November. If they fail, the home advantage may prove to be the difference the two sides.


Team News

Ireland welcome Jonathan Sexton back into the squad after missing the first two rounds of the competition due to a calf injury. He lines up in between Connor Murray and Robbie Henshaw, which forces Paddy Jackson onto the bench and Ian Keatley out of the matchday 23.

Schmidt has opted to drop Cian Healey to the bench this weekend, allowing Jack McGrath to assume a starting role. He is joined by captain Rory Best and Tadg Furlong.

The recent form of Rabah Slimani has been noticed by French coach, Guy Novès. The versatile prop from Stade Français has made a big impact off the bench in both fixtures and has been rewarded with a starting role this weekend.

Racing 92 centre, Henry Chavancy, has been recalled back into the squad. If the 28-year-old makes an appearance at the weekend he will win his first cap for the French national side.


Line-ups:

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Ireland: McGrath, Best, Furlong, Ryan, Toner, Stander, O’Brien, Heaslip, Murray, Sexton, Zebo, Henshaw, Ringrose, Earls, Kearney
Subs: Scannell, Healy, Ryan, Henderson, O’Mahony, Marmion, Jackson, Trimble
Injured:
Doubtful:
Not available:
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France: Baille, Guirado, Slimani, Vahaamahina, Maestri, Le Roux, Gourdon, Picamoles, Serin, Lopez, Nakaitaci, Lamerat, Fickou, Huget, Spedding
Subs: Tolofua, Atonio, Arous, Devedec, Ollivon, Machenaud, Chavancy, Camara
Injured: Goujon, Vakatawa
Doubtful:
Not available:

Statistics

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Ireland 2016 – Present France 2016 – Present
4th IRB World Ranking 7th
4 (3) (at home) Wins (2016 – Present) (away) 5 (3)
52–21 vs. Canada Biggest win (2016 – Present) 52-8 vs. Samoa
(3) (2) (at home) Losses (2016 – present) (away) 4 (5)
21-9 vs. New Zealand Biggest Defeat (2016 – present) 30-19 vs. Argentina
36 Tries Scored (2016 – present) 30
33 Tries Against (2016 – present) 20
4 Yellow Cards 6
1 Draws 0
934 Combined Caps
3 2016 Finishing Place 5
13 Six Nations Titles 21
  • Ireland are currently on top of the stats board for tries scored, metres made, defenders beaten and clean line breaks. They go into this fixture in the knowledge that they are, at least statistically, the best side in the tournament at present.
  • France, rather unsurprisingly, are currently the side that have made the most offloads. With 29 completed offloads made compared to Ireland’s 21, this is an area Joe Schmidt will be looking to target with an abrasive, uncompromising defensive strategy.
  • In the last ten meetings between the two sides Ireland have won three fixtures, there have been two draws, and France have won five. The last five results show an even split with Ireland claiming two victories, France two, and one draw.
  • With an overall ruck success rate of 85% and a total of eight rucks lost, the first two rounds show that France are the least accurate side at the breakdown. They will need to show a big improvement here if they are to stop the likes of Sean O’Brien and Rory Best from stealing turnovers.

Head to Head

Last 5 meetings between the two sides
Date Competition Game Result First Try-scorer
13/02/2016 Six Nations France 10 – 9 Ireland M Medard 69′
11/10/2015 Rugby World Cup Ireland 24 – 9 France Kearney 51′
14/02/2015 Six Nations Ireland 18 – 11 France R Taofifenua 70′
15/03/2014 Six Nations France 20 – 22 Ireland J Sexton 20′
09/03/2013 Six Nations Ireland 13 – 13 France J Heaslip 10′

Conclusion & Betting Tips

With both sides in absolute need of a victory to keep their Six Nations title hopes alive, there’s no doubt that this will be a hard-fought fixture. France are really beginning to gel and look as though they are ready to produce a big performance; they will need to if they are to overcome Joe Schmidt’s well-drilled, abrasive side in front of their home crowd in Dublin. These are the kind of games that are likely to come down to a single score, which makes it extremely hard to call. The bookies seem to think that the home advantage will work in Ireland’s favour; we tend to agree, but if the French produce the kind of performance we know they are capable of then the result could go either way. If you’re feeling brave, you could opt for an alternative winning margin of 1-12 points in France’s favour. If not, you could perhaps try the special shirt number 8/7/6 on either side to score the first try market. Top prices are currently showing at Ladbrokes.