There’s plenty at stake in the championship finale in Paris

Six Nations France v Ireland preview

Paris when it sizzles… Plenty of drama is expected from this year’s Six Nations finale. After all, we won’t know who has won the 2020 championship until the final whistle is blown at the Stade de France.

France, Ireland and England all go into the final round of this prolonged tournament with a chance of lifting the trophy, but Andy Farrell’s team are the only side with fate in their own hands.

If Ireland secure a bonus-point win over France, it will be Johnny Sexton lifting the trophy. Yet the Irish have only scored four tries in a Test against France twice since 1953, albeit that one of those times was last year, and have only done so once on French soil throughout history. So the chances of them breaching the French line that many times on Saturday night look slim.

Therefore, the title race could come down to points difference, just as it did in 2015 when three teams finished level on eight points and Ireland pipped England to the title by a better points differential of just six.

In France and Ireland’s favour this time is the fact that they will know exactly what they need to do come kick-off. England are expected to rack up a big score in Italy and thus set a points difference target for the others to better.

France will need to beat Ireland by three more points than England beat Italy if they are to lift a first Six Nations title since 2010. Ireland are already 23 points better off than England in the points difference column so would then need to better whatever the English winning margin is minus 23. Keeping up?

It is all rather complicated and recent matches between these two countries have tended to be tight – remember Sexton’s last-play drop-goal two years ago that set Ireland on the road to a Grand Slam?

In the past ten years only one game has seen a winning margin of more than 20 points – France’s 33-10 win in 2010. Plus, with two coaches – Ireland’s Farrell and Shaun Edwards in the French camp – who have built their careers on producing solid defences, it’s hard to see this match being a try-fest, and that could play into England’s hands in terms of the title.

Still, it does mean there will be plenty at stake as the match plays out. Here’s what else you need to know ahead of France v Ireland…

What’s the big team news?

Both France and Ireland have made only one change to the teams that beat Wales and Italy respectively last weekend – and those changes are injury-enforced.

Six Nations France v Ireland preview

Centre point: Robbie Henshaw replaces the injured Garry Ringrose (Getty Images)

Robbie Henshaw comes into the Ireland starting XV for Garry Ringrose, who suffered a broken jaw in the win over Italy, while Teddy Thomas’s injury sees Arthur Vincent start in the France midfield with Gaël Fickou shifting to the wing.

Arthur Retiere could also win his first France cap from the bench.

What have the coaches said?

After an impressive 38-21 victory over Wales last weekend, France coach Fabien Galthié is looking for his team to back that up against Ireland, saying: “Our goal is very clear: we need to be consistent.

“We performed against England and then we were average against Italy (in the Six Nations). Then we performed against Wales before losing to Scotland. Now we’ve just been very good against Wales.”

Ireland coach Andy Farrell is wary of the threat of France scrum-half Antoine Dupont, saying: “They have threats all across the back-line, but Dupont is a fighter. He’s a winner as well.

“He hasn’t just got all the skill, but he has the will to win as well. His strength is one of his biggest attributes, he is a threat. He is somebody that we have talked heavily about this week.”

What are the odds?

Hosts France are 13-25 on to beat Ireland, who are at 29-20 with 888.

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Any interesting statistics?

  • This will be the 100th meeting between France and Ireland. The French have won 57 Tests to Ireland’s 35, with seven draws in those 99 games to date.
  • Cian Healy will become the sixth man to win 100 Ireland caps when he takes the field in Paris. He follows Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell and John Hayes.

Milestone: Cian Healy will win his 100th cap for Ireland (Getty Images)

  • The two No 8s in this match top the carry stats after four rounds of the Six Nations – CJ Stander with 64 and Gregory Alldritt with 58.
  • Another back-rower, France captain Charles Ollivon, is the tournament’s top try-scorer with four.
  • Fabien Galthié has selected a record 11 players to start all five matches in a single Six Nations, surpassing the previous mark of ten. Stat courtesy of Russ Petty…

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

France v Ireland, Saturday 31 October, Stade de France

The match kicks off at 8.05pm and will be broadcast live on the BBC in the UK and on Virgin One in Ireland, with commentary also on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds as well as RTE radio.

If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Six Nations coverage around the world.

Wayne Barnes missed last weekend’s Premiership final after having to isolate following a positive Covid test, but he’s back with the whistle for this match in Paris. He will be assisted by fellow Englishmen Matthew Carley and Karl Dickson while Luke Pearce is the Television Match Official.

Fine nine: Scrum-half Antoine Dupont in France training (Getty Images)

What are the line-ups?

France: Anthony Bouthier; Vincent Rattez, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gaël Fickou; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Arthur Retiere, Thomas Ramos.

Ireland: Jacob Stockdale; Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Hugo Keenan; Johnny Sexton (captain), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Will Connors, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson Park, Ross Byrne, Chris Farrell.

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