Ireland and France go head-to-head at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, with both teams desperately attempting to avoid the wooden spoon.
Both teams have endured difficult campaigns and are out of contention for this year’s Six Nations honours.
Ireland have had a very disappointing Six Nations campaign. Despite beating Wales in Cardiff, they fell to a loss against England. They face Scotland last time out and dominated the Scots, finishing with 80% possession. However, they could not turn their dominance into points and lost a game that should have been won quite easily.
France have had a disastrous campaign. They are yet to register a win and lost 23-13 to England in their previous game.
Saturday’s game is sure to be a thrilling encounter, with both teams doing their best to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
The week building up to Saturday’s game centred on the Irish number ten spot. Was Paddy Jackson fit? Would Ronan O’ Gara return? Would Ian Madigan make his début? However these questions were answered when young Paddy Jackson proved his fitness and he will start at out-half. Ian Madigan starts on the bench. Mike McCarthy returns to the second-row in place of Donncha O’ Callaghan. Cian Healy returns from his ban for stamping following a successful appeal.
Mathieu Bastareaud and Francois Trinh-Duc return to the French squad in place of Benjamin Fall and Jocelino Sota. Florian Fitz and Maxime Menard return to the starting line-up for Les Bleus, but Pascal Pape is out. Thierry Dusautoir retains the leadership duties.
Ireland – Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls; Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross; Mike McCarthy, Donnacha Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (c).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald.
France – Yoann Huget; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Frederik Michalak, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas; Christophe Samson, Yoann Maestri; Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claasen, Maxime Machenaud, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud.
Players to Watch
Luke Marshall was one of the few Irish players to perform in the loss against Scotland. He made some excellent breaks and starts at centre with Brian O’ Driscoll. However, the Ulsterman faces a tough battle on Saturday if he is to contain France’s Wesley Fofana.
Although France have been under-performing, Wesley Fofana is capable of terrorising Ireland. He has the ability to win the game on his own and is in for a fascinating battle with the inexperienced Luke Marshall.
Ireland face a France team in disarray. If Declan Kidney’s men cut out the foolish penalties and take their chances, an Ireland win at 6/5 with Boylesports.com is a great punt.