France’s Six Nations has been a near disaster so far, but we have had glimpses of the flair of old at times. Can they damage Ireland’s chances for glory this year?
They threw the game away against Wales in the opening game; a loose pass when they were narrowly in front gave Wales the winner. Disaster and hard to recover the season after that loss at home.
It got worse; England dismantled them in Twickenham. Some honour was recovered with a win against Scotland two weekends ago, but they are going to end up in the bottom three again if they don’t beat us tomorrow.
The Ireland team looks a little stronger, with Ringrose, Aki, Stander, James Ryan all making returns. Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier are interesting choices.
Sean O’Brien is dropped from the squad. Maybe it means that he has shown enough so far in the tournament. Or maybe others need to get a run out in different combinations.
Last year Ireland escaped with an amazing, injury-time drop goal from Johnny Sexton. The last series of phases have been replayed many times this past year, but we should remember how close we came to losing that game.
I expect Ireland to prevent the French from getting in front, through their usual suffocating defence. If we can be half as crushing as England were, we should finish comfortable winners.
|Cian Healy||1||Jefferson Poirot|
|Rory Best (Captain)||2||Guilhem Guirado (Captain)|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Demba Bamba|
|Iain Henderson||4||Sebastien Vahaamahina|
|James Ryan||5||Felix Lambey|
|Peter O’Mahony||6||Wenceslas Lauret|
|Josh van der Flier||7||Arthur Iturria|
|CJ Stander||8||Louis Picamoles|
|Conor Murray||9||Antoine Dupont|
|Jonathan Sexton||10||Romain Ntamack|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||Yoann Huget|
|Bundee Aki||12||Gael Fickou|
|Garry Ringrose||13||Mathieu Bastareaud|
|Keith Earls||14||Damian Penaud|
|Niall Scannell||16||Camille Chat|
|Dave Kilcoyne||17||Etienne Falgoux|
|John Ryan||18||Dorian Aldegheri|
|Ultan Dillane||19||Paul Willemse|
|Jack Conan||20||Gregory Alldritt|
|John Cooney||21||Baptiste Serin|
|Jack Carty||22||Anthony Belleau|
That’s how it appears on paper anyway. Ireland has been given a thirteen point handicap to overcome by most bookmakers. It seems to be appropriate. But then again, this has not been a convincing season. If we have the same problems that we showed in earlier games, this could become a tight slog.
France’s flair may kick in as the game goes on, becoming less structured after sixty minutes as the replacements leave gaps and change dynamics. If they are within touch at that point, it could leave us with an uncomfortable, tight finish.
I think Ireland will finally gel the way we know that they can, however, and we will be out of sight before the inevitable French fight back. Ireland to win by ten in the end.
Rob Kearney has been withdrawn due to injury with Jordan Larmour promoted to full back. Andrew Conway makes it onto the bench.
Great to see both Larmour and Conway get their chances. With the World Cup around the corner, a competition where attrition can determine results, we need to ramp up experience in this key position.