Key Clash Preview: France v Ireland

Date: 11/2/12
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: Dave Pearson
Kick-Off: 20:00


After some early troubles last weekend in the lineout and the scrum, France raced away from a dogged Italy in the second half, ultimately cruising to victory without really needing to hit top gear. Four tries for four of their backs showed a sharp attacking edge, whilst the changes this weekend bringing in Poux, Szarzewski, Maestri and Harinordoquy fix the set-piece problems from last week.


Last week I said their form was patchy, and I think the same word still applies. Just 4 wins in the last 10 games, 2 of those against Russia and the USA, suggest all may not be well within the camp. It also proves that the sum is not always as good as the parts (Ulster, Munster and Leinster), whose form and predominately Ireland-qualified make-up should see Ireland pushing for the tournament rather than facing a must win game in Round 2.

What to Expect:

Just the one change from last weekend’s side, with Keith Earls returning after his daughter’s illness to replace the disappointing Fergus McFadden. Gordon D’Arcy and he will need to shore up the porous defence so effectively exploited by Davies and Roberts last weekend. Offensively, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, Ireland need to set the base at the set-piece and create quick ball to allow the undoubted ability of Trimble, Bowe and Kearney the chance to wreak some havoc.

One thing is for sure, the young bucks at half back need to tactically boss their opposite numbers to have even a remote chance of coming back from Paris with a rare win. France have the physicality and speed to recycle quick ball and catch Ireland off balance. D’Arcy will undoubtedly be targeted by one of the many big French runners.

Head-to-Head: Louis Picamoles v Sean O’Brien

Two men wearing 7 who are not natural opensides, Picamoles & O’Brien are both blessed with natural power. Picamoles’s good form continued last weekend with his excellent break off the back of the scrum setting up Julien Malzieu’s try. The balance of Dusautoir’s subtle skill, Harinodoquy’s aerial prowess and Picamoles’ athleticism in the back row is perfect.

Sean O’Brien showed signs last week in the first half that he was coming to terms with the needs of a top level 7. Sam Warburton was kept quiet by O’Brien, and others it must be said, and with him coming off injured at half time, O’Brien should have had the armoury to make the Welsh feel the disadvantage. That he didn’t was the surprise. This week he faces a different challenge. O’Brien has to have a major influence on the game for Ireland to have a chance. France’s pack is intimidating and strong, and any disruption to their ball in the loose, with the consequences that could provoke, will need to come from O’Brien.

One to Watch: Morgan Parra & Rory Best

Lose Yachvili, bring in Parra. Hardly the most painful of replacements. The addition of the Clermont scrum-half reunites the half back pairing that won the 2010 Grand Slam in combining him with François Trinh-Duc. Brilliant with the boot whether in open play of off the tee, Parra is a world class talent. How lucky are France to have two great players in one position?

Possibly the most in-form of Ireland’s plethora of stars, the relatively unsung Rory Best was an unlucky try-scoring loser last Sunday against Wales. The unassuming Best has become the best hooker in Britain, and I was looking forward to a great battle between he and William Servat until Philippe Saint-Andre spoiled that for me. Best does everything well. His line-out is as a line-out should be, hitting his jumpers consistently with little fuss. He tackles well, carries well and has good hands. If the Lions were playing tomorrow, he would be a shoe-in for the number 2 shirt. As it is, he needs to perform and help the experienced line-out jumpers provide the forward platform which would give Ireland a sniff of a victory.


Ireland’s team is not bad by any means, but it just does not have the same quality as the home side. If France get momentum early on with a first try, then this could be a thrashing. It’s all about continuation and playing the game in the right areas. With a back row capable to dominate any side in the world, possession should be no issue. France by 15 points. BC

Try as I might, I just cannot see Ireland getting anything from this one. At the tournament’s start, I saw this being the one game that Declan Kidney’s men lost, and given the performances of both sides last week, given the strength of the French pack and given the pace and invention behind the scrum, I see a French win by 10-12 points. MB

13 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview: France v Ireland

  1. have to agree cant see us winning how doc and darcy are still being picked is a mystery, it could be a very long 80 mins, why is irish rugby so slow in giving young lads a chance? it seems to be harder to get of the team than on it once your picked your there for 10 years.i allways believed in dk but two good performances since gs in 09 is not good enough,maybe the players are not as good as we think they are….

        1. Dusautoir is really an open-side despite wearing 6.

          For sure there is no way Picamoles or Harindoroqouy are open-side flankers!

        2. Touché sir! Copied from the France website on Tuesday but they must have switched it. They’re all very versatile as you say.

  2. I agree with a France win, but I think Ireland are better than people are giving them credit for at the moment. If their world cup game against Wales had gone the other way, people would be crediting them with finally realising their potential. As it is, they’re losing the close games consistently at the moment, and have a weak midfield without O’Driscoll. That aside, I thought they were the better of the two teams for the middle 50mins of last week’s game with Wales, and they have a stonking back row around which to secure and disrupt possession.

    Looking forward to this one. It’s great to see 3 teams (France, Wales, Ireland – in that order) performing well at the moment, creating some exciting rugby to watch and some cracking games. Let’s hope that continues in Paris tomorrow night.

  3. Problem is that Sean O’Brien is just not a number 7.

    I really don’t think that it was down to him that Warburton was quiet last week and I thought Tipuric completely out-played him when he came on

    O’Brien tackled his little cotton socks off, but if that was all a team needed in a flanker, Joe Worsley might still be playing for England.

    When he plays at 7, Ireland lose the benefit of his barn-storming runs. And without that, I’m not sure what else he adds as he’s not a ball-stealer and he’s not a definite line-out option

    Perhaps DC needs to bite the bullet and play him off the bench as an impact sub. But then who would play in his place?

    1. You’re right, and that’s why I said O’Brien and others kept Warburton quiet, but that he didn’t ram the advantage home in the second half, when Tipuric did a lot of quietly efficient work. Ferris’s non-suspension probably stopped Kidney moving O’Brien to 6 and playing O’Mahony at 7, but that we will never know.

  4. Lets face it, Ireland are going down. Doesn’t matter what combination of back rowers they put out, they are up against, in my opinion THE best back rower in history, Mr Duastoir. inspirational guy.

    France looked in ominously good form and i dont see anyone getting anywhere near them in this 6N.

    Ireland do not have the tight 5 and Im disappointed to see them field a 12/13 combo which is going to get hammered backwards.

    Irelands plan A is get back rowers over the gain line and @ INt level, if this doesnt work, youn hav to look @ your 12/13 to help do this. Ireland dont have a plan B.#

    This could get really messy.

    1. “France looked in ominously good form and i dont see anyone getting anywhere near them in this 6N.”…… I thought they looked good but not world beaters. I think Ireland and wales both played to a higher standard last week (mostly because France didn’t need to). Whilst i do think France will wipe the floor with Ireland today Wales will at the very least be competitive.

      It’s true what you say about Irelands dependence on the back row getting over the gainline. But its also true that they have the back row to do this. They need a performance like they had against Aus in the RWC. And they need france to have an off day (which does happen from time to time if i’m not mistaken).

  5. I’m afraid that I agree with you jimmy

    The Irish centres were blasted off the park by Roberts, Davies and North. They switched Mc Fadden with Earls, who is no great shakes defensively

    I can see Rougerie, Fofana and Malzieu tearing them to shreds and good as the Irish back row is, one of Dusautoir, Harinordoquoy and Picamoles is just mout-watering. I can’t see a weakness there, it just looks so balanced. That they can afford to leave a player like Bonnaire on the bench speaks volumes

    Surely there only home is for the French to self-combust but that’s looking unlikely

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