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.

IrelandPositionFrance
Cian Healy1Jefferson Poirot
Rory Best (Captain)2Guilhem Guirado (Captain)
Tadhg Furlong3Demba Bamba
Iain Henderson4Sebastien Vahaamahina
James Ryan5Felix Lambey
Peter O’Mahony6Wenceslas Lauret
Josh van der Flier7Arthur Iturria
CJ Stander8Louis Picamoles
Conor Murray9Antoine Dupont
Jonathan Sexton10Romain Ntamack
Jacob Stockdale11Yoann Huget
Bundee Aki12Gael Fickou
Garry Ringrose13Mathieu Bastareaud
Keith Earls14Damian Penaud
Rob Kearney Jordan Larmour15Thomas Ramos
Replacements
Niall Scannell16Camille Chat
Dave Kilcoyne17Etienne Falgoux
John Ryan18Dorian Aldegheri
Ultan Dillane19Paul Willemse
Jack Conan20Gregory Alldritt
John Cooney21Baptiste Serin
Jack Carty22Anthony Belleau
Jordan Larmour Andrew Conway23Maxime Medard

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.

Late withdrawal

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.