Round four of the 2019 championship is rounded off in Dublin – here’s what you need to know

Six Nations Ireland v France Preview

Oh the drama of this fixture last year. The last-minute drop-goal from Johnny Sexton after 41 phases on the opening day that set Ireland on their way to a Six Nations Grand Slam. This time France visit Dublin on Sunday afternoon to round off round four.

It’s been a mixed championship for both these teams so far. Being outplayed by England in their first game seems to have dented Ireland’s confidence and while they bounced back to beat both Scotland and Italy, neither victory was convincing.

France had a brilliant opening 40 minutes against Wales but collapsed in the second half and were woeful against England at Twickenham. Yet a much-changed side showed their potential in Paris in round three by playing some great attacking rugby against Scotland.

So what can we expect in Dublin? A tight Test, for sure. Only five of their 19 Six Nations matches have had a winning margin in double figures and, in fact, there have been two draws, in 2012 and 2013.

If it comes down to goalkicking, Ireland will certainly have the advantage with the best success rate in the competition of 83.3% while France have the worst (42.9%).

What’s the big team news?

France are known for making numerous changes but for this match they have named an unchanged 23.

Six Nations Ireland v France Preview

Fine nine: Antoine Dupont has managed the game well from scrum-half (Getty Images)

Toulouse pair Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack remain at half-back after such a convincing performance against Scotland while Arthur Iturria has impressed during this championship.

Related: Romain Ntamack scores incredible try against Scotland

In contrast, Joe Schmidt, who is preparing for his final home match in the Six Nations as Ireland coach, originally made seven changes to the starting XV that beat Italy. He is using this championship as an opportunity to “spread the load”.

There was just one change to the back-line with Garry Ringrose returning from injury to start in midfield alongside Bundee Aki. However, on match day Rob Kearney was ruled out and Jordan Larmour was promoted from the bench to start at full-back, with Andrew Conway added to the replacements.

Up front, captain Rory Best and Cian Healy are back in the front row, Iain Henderson and James Ryan team up in the second row, and Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander start at openside and No 8 respectively.

Sean O’Brien has been left out of the match-day 23, with Jack Conan the back-row replacement on the bench.

What have the coaches said?

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt: “We have a pretty thorough way of trying to make sure everyone is on the same page and that we are confident and have belief in each other. You’ve got to have trust on a rugby pitch. Players have to do their own job.

“I know there are a lot of people saying ‘what can we change’ but a lot of what we did last year is still just as relevant if we want to win games as it will be in 48 hours’ time. We just have to be more accurate.”

France coach Jacques Brunel: “Ireland continue to be certain about their game and remain very successful; after losing to England they were able to bounce back. It’s very difficult to take them on, because their game is very well structured and programmed.

“We know what to expect but they were well beaten by the English. There are weaknesses and we will try to pressure those.”

Six Nations Ireland v France Preview

Full stretch: Conor Murray scores a try against Italy (Getty Images)

Any interesting statistics?

  • Ireland have scored more tries (five) from lineouts than any other team in this Six Nations and have won 100% of their scrums.
  • France have made more offloads than any other team in the 2019 championship, with an incredible 48 in three games. In contrast, Ireland have made the fewest – nine.
  • Ireland have been awarded more penalties (20) than any other side in this year’s Six Nations.
  • France have the slowest average ruck speed (4.13 seconds) and Ireland the fastest (3.39 seconds).
  • France No 8 Louis Picamoles leads the carries charts with 44 in this championship.
Six Nations Ireland v France Preview

Ball player: Louis Picamoles makes a carry against Scotland (Getty Images)

What time does it kick off and is it on TV?

Ireland v France, Sunday 10 March, Aviva Stadium

This Test kicks off at 3pm on Sunday afternoon. It is live on ITV in the UK and Virgin Media One in Ireland. Commentary will also be live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and RTE.

New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe is the referee in Dublin, with Australian Angus Gardner and England’s Karl Dickson as his assistants. Kiwi Ben Skeen is the TMO.

What are the line-ups?

IRELAND: Jordan Larmour; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Ultan Dillane, Jack Conan, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway.

FRANCE: Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Demba Bamba, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Arthur Iturria, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Etienne Falgoux, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau, Maxime Medard.

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