France vs. Ireland
Saturday, kick-off 1425
Stade de France, Paris
Bizarrely, only France and England — the two teams that disappointed most at last year’s World Cup — are still on for the Grand Slam following the opening weekend of Six Nations action. Guy Noves’ new-look side laboured past Italy in Paris and now face a tougher test against Ireland. But, following their draw against Wales last week, Joe Schmidt’s side has been ravaged by injury, meaning Saturday’s clash in the French capital will likely be closer than expected.
France have made six changes for the visit of Ireland. Teddy Thomas, Maximo Mermoz, Yacouba Camara, Alexandre Flanquart, Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot all come into Les Bleus’ starting XV, while Damien Chouly starts at No.8 following Louis Picamoles’ tournament-ending hamstring injury during the win over Italy. Gael Fickou misses out for personal reasons.
For Ireland, injuries have forced Schmidt’s hand with Simon Zebo (knee) and Keith Earls (concussion) both ruled out at the 11th hour. Sean O’Brien is back after hamstring trouble, with Tommy O’Donnell dropping to the bench, while Rob and Dave Kearney both start in the back three.
France: Medard, Thomas, Mermoz, Danty, Vakatawa, Plisson, Bezy; Poirot, Guirado (captain), Atonio, Flanquart, Maestri, Lauret, Camara, Chouly.
Replacements: Chat, Slimani, Ben Arous, Jedrasiak, Goujon, Machenaud, Doussain, Bonneval
Ireland: R Kearney, Trimble, Payne, Henshaw, D Kearney, Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best (captain), White, Toner, McCarthy, Stander, O’Brien, Heaslip.
Replacements: Strauss, Cronin, Furlong, Ryan, O’Donnell, Reddan, Madigan, McFadden.
CJ Stander had a superb debut against Wales in Dublin last weekend and will now be pitted against one of French rugby’s brightest starlets in Yacouba Camara. Those two could really shake the foundations of the Stade de France on Saturday afternoon.
*France’s victory over Italy last weekend was their third successive win at the Stade de France — but they have never won four on the bounce at the venue.
*Ireland beat France 24-9 in Cardiff during the World Cup, while France have not beaten the men in green for their last five encounters since a World Cup warm-up game in Dublin in 2011.
*Ireland won 22-20 on their most recent visit to Paris two years ago — to win the 2014 Six Nations title — but have not beaten their hosts in Paris in successive games since 1927.
*Form guide: France – WWLLW. Ireland – WWWLD
France are narrow favourites with Unibet, priced at 41/50 to win the match. Ireland are 49/50 to come away from Paris with a win.
Fantasy players to watch
France wing Virimi Vakatawa lit up an otherwise drab France performance against Italy and fully deserved his debut try — but can he do the same against the Irish?
It was looking like a comfortable Ireland victory up until Thursday afternoon when Schmidt named his team. With injuries in mind, France could well keep their Grand Slam hopes alive — France by one.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/page/SixNations2016_Match4/six-nations-preview-france-looking-gain-rugby-world-cup-revenge-beating-ireland
Six Nations preview: France vs. Ireland
ESPN.com – RUGBY