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France vs Ireland, Sixmas

  • 03-02-2018 9:54am
    Registered Users Posts: 12,619 ✭✭✭✭


    Stade de France, 5.45pm local time/4.45pm Irish time. Live coverage on TV3 (HD where available, BBC 1 HD, DMAX, FR2, NBC, RTÉ Radio 1 and on the IRFU Live Blog.

    FRANCE: Geoffrey Palis (Castres); Teddy Thomas (Racing 92), Rémi Lamerat (Clermont Auvergne), Henry Chavancy (Racing 92), Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92); Matthieu Jalibert (Bordeaux-Bègles), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92);

    Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Bègles), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon) (capt), Rabah Slimani (Clermont Auvergne), Sébastien Vahaamahina (Clermont Auvergne), Arthur Iturria (Clermont Auvergne), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Yacouba Camara (Montpellier), Kévin Gourdon (La Rochelle).

    Replacements: Adrien Pelissié (Bordeaux-Bègles), Dany Priso (La Rochelle), Cedate Gomes Sa (Racing 92), Paul Gabrillagues (La Rochelle), Marco Tauleigne (Bordeaux-Bègles), Antoine Dupont (Toulouse), Anthony Belleau (Toulon), Benjamin Fall (Montpellier).

    IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster), Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch/Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster);

    Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt), Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster).

    Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster), John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster), Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster).

    Referee: Owens the Ref (Wales)
    Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
    Upstairs: Rowan Kitt (England)

    Preview. To paraphrase the words of St. Pepper, it was 20 years ago when Irish Rugby began it's revolution to where it is now, not in 2000 as many would believe but in 1998. And the flint that lit the fire was in a much maligned 18-16 test loss to France, with an Irish team solely selected by interim new coach Warren Gatland. That season saw a Gallic Grand slam; it was also the last time were we got the wooden spoon. Back then, the French Out Half wasn't even born then nor was TV3; more on them later.

    Today's rugby outlook is rather different. Led by the most revered coach in the modern game, Ireland are touted by many as 6N favourites while a whimpering France are looking as if they may finish last under new coach, Jacques Brunel. A wag could say that this game could easy a battle of Silverware and Kitchenware, that also including the action on Sunday. Hold the horses chief, they pull more than chariots you know.

    The Teams. It's almost cliched to state that this years teams are all suffering with serious injuries for key players. Ireland, it would appear, are the exception to the rule as the starting team could easy start a test on any given weekend. While there is no Heaslip and O'Brien, frankly they have not been missed given the strength and depth of the cover and that is a good thing for us. What will almost certainly happen is for the French to try and injure Sexton from early on. This enforcement has served them well in the past and cover for JS is the main cause of concern, both tactically in terms of cover at fly half and emotionally. Alone, the thought of having him play deeper a la ROG will affect Irish tactics and well we know it; will it be picked up on the day or not of the worst happens?

    Besides that, the main talking point has been the call up for James Ryan and Keith Earls. Both have been playing fine football this season and both deserve their spots. A physical midfield of Henshaw and Aki shows that backing down in defence isn't an option this weekend; they may also be there to give JS a little bit of help from stray runners in loop arounds and loose ball situations.

    For the French, an enforced break for Bastareaud and an injury for Fofana mean that steamroller ball will be less of a worry. On the other hand, the speed and mobility of 19 year old debutant Matthieu Jalibert adds a serious danger to their back options and at pace he will cause trouble, as will fellow debutant Castres Olympique full back Geoffrey Palis.

    A solid pack is led by Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado, who should be fit to play after a stomach bug hit the French training camp this week. Behind him are the Clermont Auvergne second rows Sebastien Vahaamahina and Arthur Iturria while Yacouba Camara makes a welcome return at flanker.

    The Verdict. It's a cliche to ask what French team will turn up but the stark reality is that the main difference that this should make is in how much of a fight they will make. The Irish team are far stronger on paper, far less disrupted and far more balanced over the park. While the French team are good enough to win, their opposition are far less likely to lose than France are to win. They will and are able to fight but these days they don't seem to want to as much. A pity but hey, I'll take the win with or without Ryal Nugent and a hope that TV3's Head of Sports will have No Regrets....
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