But Ireland, who go into this match seeking their first points following a last-gasp home defeat against Wales on opening weekend, will be keen to prevent last season’s Rugby World Cup Finalists from having everything their own way under floodlights at the Stade de France.
In the past few seasons, Ireland have posed perhaps the biggest problems for France in 6 Nations rugby, through a combination of Irish determination and France saving their biggest lapses for games against Declan Kidney’s men.
This season, though, Ireland are without their biggest threat from the past decade, as Brian O’Driscoll is out of action.
But Ireland do welcome back Keith Earls, who missed last weekend’s defeat because his daughter was in hospital: his presence then might have been enough for two points, such was the fine margin between Ireland and Wales.
The form line running through the World Cup – in which Wales, minus a player, were only defeated by a point by France, shows that this match may be every bit as close as last Sunday’s Ireland v Wales game.
Phillipe Saint-Andre’s France showed their good and bad sides against Italy last week. At times they were fantastic with ball in hand, producing chances from mere inches of room through game-changers like Francois Trinh-Duc. When Italy had the ball, France seemed unable to win it back for large periods of time. Ireland will prove a tougher nut to crack than Italy’s defence, and, if afforded the sort of possession that Italy were given, they have more guns to punish France.
Having said that, france’s defence, when called upon, has been immense in their past few matches, and they infrequently concede many points.
It took a rampaging North last week to break through Ireland’s defence, and France’s equivalent, Wesley Fofana, while impressive against Italy on debut, is not quite such a battering ram as North. France look likely to score, but not so easily as last time out.
Ireland have got finishers in their squad too, so, on papar, we have the ingredients for at least a try apiece, in which case the result will come down to discipline in the key areas of the pitch.
Silly penalties – which both side were guilty of giving away last week – and yellow cards may well undo one of these teams. Which team that will be is not, by any means, clear cut ahead of kick-off.
The slight preference goes to France, who have home advantage, but this looks like a 5 point game. Don’t discount the Irish.
France v Ireland Starting Lineups – RBS 6 Nations 2012
- 15 Maxime Medard (Toulouse)
- 14 Vincent Clerc (Toulouse)
- 13 Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne)
- 12 Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
- 11 Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne)
- 10 Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
- 9 Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
- 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse)
- 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais Paris)
- 3 Nicolas Mas (Perpignan)
- 4 Pascal Pape (Stade Francais Paris)
- 5 Yoann Maestri (Toulouse)
- 6 Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, Capt)
- 7 Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique)
- 8 Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
- 16 William Servat (Toulouse)
- 17 Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne)
- 18 Lionel Nallet (Racing-Metro 92)
- 19 Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne)
- 20 Julien Dupuy (Stade Francais Paris)
- 21 Lionel Beauxis (Toulouse)
- 22 Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan)
- 15 Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster)
- 14 Tommy Bowe (Ospreys)
- 13 Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster)
- 12 Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
- 11 Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster)
- 10 Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
- 9 Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
- 1 Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
- 2 Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster)
- 3 Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster)
- 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster)
- 5 Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) Captain
- 6 Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster)
- 7 Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
- 8 Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster)
- 16 Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
- 17 Tom Court (Malone/Ulster)
- 18 Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster)
- 19 Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)*
- 20 Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
- 21 Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster)
- 22 Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster)