Love is in the air this weekend but there will be no kissing and cuddling on the Stade de France sward as Ireland and France battle it out in arguably the decisive game of this year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship. We preview the nations’ 86th Test meeting.
RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, February 13
FRANCE v IRELAND, Stade de France, 5.30pm local time/4.30pm Irish time (live RTE Two/BBC One)
Team News: Ireland coach Declan Kidney has named the team to play France in the defending champions’ second match of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship in Paris.
Keith Earls, a second half replacement in the 29-11 win over Italy, has been selected on the left wing in place of Andrew Trimble. The Ulsterman picked up a hamstring strain in last Saturday’s win over Italy.
In the second row, Leo Cullen has been named to start as Donncha O’Callaghan has not recovered from the knee injury that ruled him out of the Italian game.
But Stephen Ferris has shaken off a knee injury to take his place at blindside flanker, getting the nod over Kevin McLaughlin who made his debut last weekend.
Speaking at the team announcement press conference, head coach Declan Kidney said: “Keith went very well against South Africa, he didn’t do anything wrong in December-January.
“And so I explained to them that I wanted to give Andrew a go to see how he went last week. I thought he went well, but Keith hadn’t done anything wrong, so I believe he deserves his go here now.
“Donncha trained this morning, but he just wasn’t deemed right to take the pitch on Saturday. He was the one that was pulled out.”
Meanwhile, Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson have been included in the France team for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown.
France coach Marc Lievremont has made two enforced changes to the team that beat Scotland for les Bleus’ much-anticipated encounter with Ireland.
Injured duo Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall have been replaced by Clerc and Palisson, with experienced wide man Clerc lining out on the right wing and the 22-year-old Palisson on the left wing.
Clerc is a familiar foe to Ireland sides, scoring a hat-trick of tries in France’s 2008 RBS 6 Nations win over the Irish in Paris.
The Toulouse flyer also scored the late try in that nail-biting 2007 clash at Croke Park, and grabbed tries in the sides’ 2004 RBS 6 Nations and 2007 Rugby World Cup meetings.
Palisson plays his club rugby for Brive and this will be his RBS 6 Nations debut as well as his first Test cap since winning his fifth as a replacement against Australia in November 2008.
Palisson has been preferred to Clermont Auvergne’s Julien Malzieu who has been added to the replacements bench, along with Sylvain Marconnet who comes in for the injured Luc Ducalcon.
Commenting on the team selection, Lievremont said: “You don’t change a winning team. Playing Vincent Clerc from the start shouldn’t cause a debate, there was a lot of discussion on who to play on the left wing.
“We decided to go with the versatility and left boot of Alexis Palisson, because he often plays at full-back for Brive.
“We think Ireland will kick a lot for territorial advantage. We know the qualities of Julien Malzieu but it seemed interesting to us to have the presence of Alexis alongside Clement Poitrenaud.”
FRANCE: Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Francais), Yannick Jauzion (Toulouse), Alexis Palisson (Brive); Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne); Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), William Servat (Toulouse), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Lionel Nallet (Racing-Metro), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique).
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Sylvain Marconnet (Stade Francais), Julien Pierre (Clermont Auvergne), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), David Marty (Perpignan), Frederic Michalack (Toulouse), Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne).
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), John Hayes (Bruff/Munster), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), David Wallace (Garryowen/Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television Match Official: Giulio de Santis (Italy)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): France to win: 4/9; Draw: 50/1; Ireland to win: 15/8
Pre-Match Quotes: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) – “You realise what a great place the Stade de France is, how it’s a fast track and how it’s the way you want to play rugby.
“It adds that little bit of excitement that you need because you realise you have to bring your ‘A’ game to Paris if you want to survive. The pitch will play the way a lot of us would like it.
“The three tries in 2000 changed my life a good bit. I suppose I didn’t realise how big a deal it was until I got home. It was a big change for Irish rugby – a lot of new guys had come in and the team, the focus, the mentality, the focus changed hopefully forever. It was far from one game.
“The one before that one was against Scotland, five guys got capped and these guys are John Hayes, who is on his 99th cap, and Rog (Ronan O’Gara) his 95th, Shane Horgan, Strings (Peter Stringer) and Simon Easterby – guys who have been hugely instrumental in any success Ireland have had over the last 10 years.
“It changed the mentality of us as a rugby team and a rugby nation. That game was the catalyst for how the game here has changed.”
Lionel Nallet (France) – “It will be a big fight to deliver face as we face stronger opponents than the Scots, especially up front. What’s certain is that we performed well last weekend, particularly in the scrum. But now we must forget Scotland.
“Ireland are the top team in Europe since they won the Championship last year. But I don’t see them as the best in the world.
“They are effective but their game does not make me jump. We have other ambitions at this level.
“It will be up to us mentally not to fall into their trap and make mistakes. It is known and the coaches have insisted that they tend to lose at our home ground. We must find solutions so that they do not (change that).”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2006 RBS 6 Nations: France 43 Ireland 31, Stade de France
2007 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 17 France 20, Croke Park
2007 Rugby World Cup – Pool D: France 25 Ireland 3, Stade de France
2008 RBS 6 Nations: France 26 Ireland 21, Stade de France
2009 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 30 France 21, Croke Park