It was the best match last year and could be an early decider in 2024

The two best sides meet under the Friday-night lights in Marseille as we find out who has put their World Cup heartbreak to bed. Here are our France v Ireland predictions ahead of the opening Six Nations clash.

Fabien Galthié’s les Bleus are taking their home games across the country with the Stade de France undergoing some maintenance work ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics this summer. But do not expect anything less than a thunderous atmosphere at the Stade Velodrome.

Read more: How to watch France v Ireland in the Six Nations wherever you are

However, Ireland will be up for the battle as Andy Farrell’s side begin their own new era with a new leader in Peter O’Mahony. With Antoine Dupont missing, the home side also have a new captain in Grégory Alldritt. We look forward to when the two back-rowers meet.

Ireland won the Grand Slam last year and France the year before. You don’t need us to tell you that the winner on Friday night could be hurtling towards another clean sweep having brushed past their biggest rival first up.

France v Ireland predictions

Alan Dymock: France by four points. I’ve got France edging this in a raucous Stade Velodrome. Yes, this is two teams with a point to prove after failing to deliver the ultimate dream in the World Cup – and you cannot ignore the quality of both sides.

But there’s still a sense of excitement coming off the French, and while both sides try to navigate a Six Nations without talismans (Dupont for France as he chases sevens gold, and Ireland without the retired Sexton) that crowd, that Bordeaux-powered back-line and that pack we know so well can punch through.

Josh Graham: Ireland by six. There are sufficient new faces on both sides to create enough doubt in my mind about who will win the opener. Most things point to France at home and they are the favourites, but it could be Ireland’s time to reprise the memories of that famous Johnny Sexton drop-goal in 2018.

They are without the now retired No 10 but Jack Crowley has shone enough at Munster to suggest he can take on the admittedly daunting task of replacing the legendary out-half. Something gives me a feeling that Andy Farrell’s men will pull off a win on the road. Perhaps it’s the absence of Dupont or the fact that they should really have broken that RWC quarter-final hoodoo last year.

Ireland ended up winners by a stretch at home in 2023, so they will be confident of another victory. It’s a big night for Crowley and Calvin Nash in the backs and Joe McCarthy in the engine room. But all three will be up to the task.

Related: Meet France replacement lock Posolo Tuilagi: The 150kg nephew of England’s Manu

Alan Pearey: France by eight. The passion and intensity of French crowds can work both ways, of course. Ireland will hope to subdue their opponents on and off the pitch.

But the feeling persists for me that when France hit their straps, they are the best team in the world. Antoine Dupont is irreplaceable but the Lucu-Jalibert half-back pairing is the real deal. And if it comes down to a kicking duel, I’d back Thomas Ramos to come out on top against Jack Crowley, who won’t have played in atmospheres like this too often.

Kick-off time 8pm GMT – 9pm local – Friday 2 February

TV channel ITV 1 (UK) – How to watch the Six Nations wherever you are

Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Capacity: 67,000

France v Ireland head-to-head results

2023 Six Nations: Ireland 32-19 France

2022 Six Nations: France 30-24 Ireland

2021 Six Nations: Ireland 13-15 France

2020 Six Nations: France 35-27 Ireland

2019 Six Nations: Ireland 26-14 France

France v Ireland team news

FRANCE Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gaël Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana; Matthieu Jalibert, Maxime Lucu; Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio, Paul Gabrillagues, Paul Willemse, François Cros, Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt (capt).

Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Posolo Tuilagi, 20 Cameron Woki, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Nolann le Garrec, 23 Louis Bielle-Biarrey.

IRELAND Hugo Keenan; Calvin Nash, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Jack Crowley, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jack Conan, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Ciaran Frawley.

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