Six Nations preview: France vs Ireland
Ireland will once again make the journey to Paris to face a French team who have been flattered by recent results. Trips to the French capital typically offer little more than a weekend city break for travelling Irish support, but there is a flicker of confidence that a successful raid could be on the cards.
Recent French performances suggest all is not right with Les Blues.
Scotland pushed them all the way at Murrayfield. While they picked up a silver medal in New Zealand, they still had to deal with significant discord off the field. The wounds of the Lièvremont era appear yet to have healed.
Having said that, the Irish can take nothing for granted, with threats across the fifteen as well as those on the bench. Clément Poitrenaud returns from exile replacing Médard at fullback due to injury and Julien Bonnaire takes over from Picamoles as the second of two changes to the side that narrowly defeated Scotland in Edinburgh.
Declan Kidney has named an unchanged side looking for a first win in Paris in twelve long years. If Ireland are to win this game they will need to start well.
A valiant defeat is a still a defeat and Ireland have too many times lamented poor starts and handling errors, taking only a few ‘positives’ from the game.
Kidney will look to the triple threat of O’Brien, Ferris and Heaslip to impose themselves on the game. O’Brien in particular will need to try and recapture some of the form that saw him collect a European Player of the Year gong in 2011.
Key to any hope of victory will be the boot of Jonathon Sexton. The Leinster fly-half has been pushed by Munster and Ireland legend Ronan O’Gara for the starting spot.
The competition for the No. 10 jersey has brought out the best in Sexton, who landed the first six of his seven attempts against the Italians.
The French at home have the wood over Ireland, losing to the men in green only twice in half a decade. Despite their recent troubles, they are still odds on to take the victory.
Ireland, quite simply, need to avoid the early game mistakes of the past and play the French team as they are, forgetting about their reputation.
Allez les verts!
The Roar is giving you the chance to win 1 of 19 prize packs to Australian Open 2014! Each lucky winner will receive four evening tickets to Rod Laver Arena, plus access to 3 hours in the Heineken VIP Bar. Enter here.