Everything you need to know as France head to Dublin
Six Nations Ireland v France preview
Ireland could not have shown more heart as they went down swinging against Wales last week. However, they desperately need strong leadership as they host France on this Six Nations Sunday.
Neither Johnny Sexton or James Ryan have been cleared to take part after undergoing return to play protocols following brain injuries against Wales. Peter O’Mahony is banned after a red-card worthy shocker in Cardiff. And Conor Murray is out too.
So as Ireland set out on a collision course with much-vaunted France and their red-hot talents, the hosts must steal themselves.
Up steps Iain Henderson to skipper the side.
And while lineout perfection is a must for Henderson’s horde this weekend, Ireland’s big personalities must learn to make the most of whatever situation they find themselves in. They cannot have any hangovers from last week, either. Because fly-half Billy Burns will be under an intense glare as he tries to navigate his side around their 80-minute journey – he cannot flinch at all with flashbacks of last week’s horror stab at touch.
Having played the majority of the match with 14 men following O’Mahony’s 14th-minute red card for dangerous play, Ireland were somehow setting the stage for one of this tournament’s greatest ever comebacks. At the death, they had a penalty, enough time for a final lineout. But substitute fly-half Burns tried to bite off too much and overdid his kick as he aimed for the 5m-line. No lineout; no comeback.
It must have felt like Ireland walked under umpteen ladders on the way to the Principality Stadium last week, stepping on black cats all the way.
Meanwhile, everything was coming off for France against Italy. Blind, over-the-shoulder offloads from Antoine Dupont were not only setting up tries, but they were expected. The scrum-half was in bullying form, terrifying Italy almost at will. The whole French attack felt fluent throughout the contest.
Just this week, former England and Lions prop Alex Corbisiero said on NBC in the States: “If France win (this) game then I’m pretty confident that they will go on and win the tournament – that’s how big a game it is.”
The enemy is at the gates for Ireland. They need leaders to stride out and defend their honour. There is a slide to arrest and pride to resuscitate. No wheezing or windmilling will do; you cannot kill off this French side so easily anymore. And given half a chance, they will strike.
Here are the competitors.
What’s the big team news?
Ireland have made four changes to the starting team.
With Murray out due to a hamstring injury and no Sexton, Billy Burns lines up at fly-half with Jamison Gibson-Park his half-back partner.
Captain Henderson comes off the bench to start and Rhys Ruddock lines up with six on his back. There are further changes on the bench as Ed Byrne, Ultan Dillane, Ross Byrne and uncapped nine Craig Casey coming in.
For France, Damien Penaud starts on the wing and Anthony Jelonch comes into the back-row as Fabien Galthie makes two changes to his starting team. Teddy Thomas and Dylan Cretin fall to the bench.
The reserves section is where more changes come, with prop Hassane Kolingar replacing the injured Jean-Baptiste Gros and hulking Uini Atonio named ahead Dorian Aldegheri. With a five-three split on the bench, Anthony Bouthier also comes in as Louis Carbonel falls out of the squad completely.
What have the coaches said?
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell hopes Billy Burns can put last week’s error behind him, saying: “He’s been great. He’s strong, Billy. He’s a proper footballer. Everyone makes mistakes and, at international rugby, he understands the extent of that. But he’s a true professional, his team are right behind him.”
France boss Fabien Galthie said: “We will have to block them at the ruck exits because Gibson Park likes to carry the ball. Burns is of the same calibre. This team is experienced. Just a quick note for those absent – Sexton and Murray among others – to whom we wish the fastest of recoveries.”
What are the odds?
France are favourites for this match, with odds of 8-13 on Bet365. An Ireland win is 11-8 while a draw is 20-1.
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Any interesting statistics?
- 2011 was the last time France won in Dublin.
- Cian Healy’s 106th cap means he overtakes John Hayes as Ireland’s most-capped prop.
- Last week against Italy was the first time Antoine Dupont had won a Man of the Match award in a Six Nations match.
- Dupont set-up three tries in the first half last week and went on to score one himself.
- France have won five of their last six Test matches while Ireland have won 50%.
- 21 – Tadhg Beirne made the most carries in the opening round of the Six Nations, with 21.
- 12 – It has been suggested this week by La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara that in training, France’s assistant coaches get 12 minutes each to drill their area of the game, so everything is done at a pace and maintains a level of intensity.
- The last time Ireland ran out without either Murray or Sexton starting was in March 2011, according to Russ Petty.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Ireland v France, Sunday 14 February, Aviva Stadium
The match kicks off at 3pm and will be broadcast live on ITV in the UK and on Virgin One in Ireland, with commentary also on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster as well as RTE radio.
If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Six Nations coverage around the world.
An all-RFU team takes charge of officiating this one in Dublin. Luke Pearce is the match referee, with Wayne Barnes and Christophe Ridley the assistance. TMO duties will be taken on by Tom Foley.
What are the line-ups?
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson (captain), Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour.
France: Brice Dulin; Damian Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Gabin Villiere; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain).
Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas.
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