Everything you need to know as Ireland head to Paris
Six Nations France v Ireland preview
There isn’t some clichéd name (yet) for when Ireland and France do battle, but make no mistake, this fixture is already being billed as the one which decides where the Six Nations trophy is headed.
And it promises be a blockbuster affair.
Two form teams, confident and playing some quick-fire rugby, we know to expect Hadron Collider stuff at the breakdown and real cut and thrust on the edges.
Paris expects – but so do the neutrals of the rugby world. These are the two sides who dispatched New Zealand handily in November, and Ireland could make it ten Test wins in a row if they triumph in the French capital.
They will have to do so without Johnny Sexton, however. He who vanquished the French with one iconic drop-goal in 2018, in dead time, after 40+ phases, when it would be easier to roll over.
In comes long-time understudy Joey Carbery, who knows something about the power of belief himself, having a tough few years out with injury. But what a turnaround.
Remember last year when Billy Burns started and Ross Byrne was the reserve? Now Carbery comes in for his (wait, what?!) first Six Nations start.
At his back will be a commando unit of back-five forwards who can slip, frustratingly, between defenders and ruck-hunters. And they are backed up by a front three of Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong who can manhandle opposition (if Furlong isn’t slipping baffling offloads first).
But here’s the thing: the French are really buzzing about their own forward options. In Cyril Baille and Julien Marchand they have their own world leaders in front-row play. Paul Willemse is a monster and then there’s Cameron Woki and Gregory Alldritt offering relentless athleticism.
Which means this one really should come down to tactical nous… And who plays the referee best. That’s if it’s the titanic match-up we hope it is. Maybe the hero here could be someone we didn’t expect coming in?
What’s the big team news?
Fabien Galthie has made two changes to his France starting XV.
Jonathan Danty has been ruled out with an ankle injury so Yoram Moefana comes in at inside-centre while in the back row François Cros starts and Dylan Cretin drops to the bench.
In a change on the bench, which has a six-two split between forwards and backs, Thibaud Flament comes into the match-day 23.
Andy Farrell has been forced to make that one aforementioned change after Sexton sustained a hamstring injury in training.
With Carbery starting, Jack Carty comes onto the bench, while the captaincy is handed to James Ryan.
Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw are fit to be named amongst the replacements.
What have the coaches said?
France head coach Fabien Galthie said: “We imagine they (Ireland) will keep the same fundamentals, attack and defence-wise despite the absence of Johnny Sexton.
“It will be a solid match for us, Ireland arrive with a good run of victories, with the status of European No 1 and third in the world, therefore they are the best European adversary at the moment.
“They come to Paris with the same ambition as us to win.”
Ireland boss Andy Farrell said: “It’s not just about Joey and can he handle Paris – it’s about us as a group. That’s what Johnny does, he makes sure that the whole group is exactly as it should be.
“It’s not just about the No 10 as far as the direction of the team is concerned. It’s about everyone that takes the field.”
Any interesting statistics?
- This is Joey Carbery’s first-ever Six Nations start.
- Ireland have won nine Tests in a row.
- Last weekend, Ireland’s average ruck speed was the fastest in the competition, at 2.78 seconds, with France at 2.89s.
- 22 points – that was the margin of victory for Ireland over Wales last week.
- That number (22) is also the amount of carries Gregory Alldritt made in round one – top of the tree, with Bundee Aki behind him at 18
- Cameron Woki also took the most lineouts last week, with eight
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
France v Ireland, Saturday 12 February, Stade de France
The match will be shown live on ITV in the UK and live on Virgin Media One in Ireland.
The match will also be broadcast live on Radio 5 Live and RTÉ Radio 1.
The match referee will be Angus Gardner (Rugby Australia), with Ben O’Keeffe (NZR) and Craig Evans (WRU) assisting while the TMO is Ben Whitehouse (WRU).
What are the line-ups?
France: Melvyn Jaminet; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villière; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, François Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifénua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Joey Carbery, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan (captain) Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Carty, Robbie Henshaw.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.