The Stade de France has not been a happy hunting ground for Ireland over the years, with 2000’s Brian O’Driscoll-inspired victory standing out as their only win at the Paris venue to date. Will Declan Kidney’s men be able to rip up the record books on a chilly February night?
2012 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, February 11
FRANCE (1st) v IRELAND (4th), Stade de France, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time (live RTÉ Two/BBC Two)
Team News: The Ireland team to play France in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Stade de France on Saturday night has been named.
There is one change to the starting line-up as Keith Earls returns at outside centre having missed out on the game against Wales last Sunday. Fergus McFadden moves to the bench in place of David Kearney.
Commenting on the personnel switch and Saturday’s clash with France, Ireland head coach Declan Kidney said: “Keith has been bubbling away since he’s been back with us and has trained well.
“It was tough on Fergus to lose out because he did a good job for us against Wales last weekend, but Keith is worthy of a start.
“No matter who you’re playing, if you’re loose with your kicking game, then it’s going to give the opposition a chance to counter attack a lot and retain the ball a lot. We know we need to get smarter in that area.
“It’s a different team that we’re playing on Saturday. You have to watch how much emphasis you put on what happened before, because France present a whole different set of challenges.
“It is important to look back, but certainly with a six-day turnaround, not to look back for too long and just to work forward then towards what’s going to be a huge challenge against a team that was in the World Cup final not too long ago.”
Lock Paul O’Connell is hoping to captain Ireland to not only their first win of the 2012 Championship, but also a maiden away victory over France since Brian O’Driscoll’s hat-trick heroics in 2000.
“There’s a lot we have to improve on. Certainly some of the basic errors we made early on,” admitted O’Connell.
“We missed touch, the ball we gave to Bradley Davies at the front of the lineout early on, myself going ahead of the kicker – a few little silly mistakes that you just can’t make at that level, really those things need to be cut out.
“I think if we can do that early on, it can make a big difference to us. We got off to a bad start and conceded a lot of momentum and a lot of pressure to the Welsh.
“I think against France, particularly away from home, you have to start well. That’s going to be important for us.”
Meanwhile, the French starting line-up shows five changes in personnel to the team that opened the Championship with a 30-12 home win over Italy.
Four of the alterations are in the forwards with Toulouse’s Yoann Maestri set to make his first start for France, joining Pascal Papé in the second row.
Jean-Baptiste Poux and Dimitri Szarzewski have been added to the front row with Vincent Debaty and William Servat the players to make way.
Julien Bonnaire has also lost out to the returning Imanol Harinordoquy in a back row which includes Toulouse duo Louis Picamoles and Thierry Dusautoir, the captain of the national side.
In a final change announced on Thursday, head coach Philippe Saint-André drafted Morgan Parra into the team at scrum half in place of Dimitri Yachvili who has a back problem.
Maestri will win his second cap after coming off the replacements bench against the Azzurri, while it will also be cap number 2 for Clermont Auvergne’s Wesley Fofana in the centre.
Winger Vincent Clerc remains an obvious danger man with eight tries in nine outings against Ireland, and Francois Trinh-Duc, who played twice against Ireland last August, continues at out-half.
FRANCE: Maxime Médard (Toulouse); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Aurélien Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne); François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne); Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Pascal Papé (Stade Français), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).
Replacements: William Servat (Toulouse), Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), Lionel Nallet (Racing-Metro 92), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), Julien Dupuy (Stade Français), Lionel Beauxis (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan).
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) (capt), Stephen Ferris (Dungannon/Ulster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster).
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes, Andrew Small (both England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): France to win: 1/4; Draw: 20/1; Ireland to win: 10/3
Pre-Match Quotes: Rory Best (Ireland) – “To win in France, for club or country, you have to go to places you didn’t think were possible and come back from. That’s what we’re gearing ourselves up for mentally.
“The key thing is that we arrive in Paris knowing what we must do to get that win. We can’t do our usual and go to Paris and be 20 points down after 20 minutes. We know that.
“There’s something about going to Paris that in the first half hour or 20 minutes we try to play them at their own game. There are times when we’ve been 20 points down but finished strongly with chances to win it and you get sick of that.
“We have to go there and must not get carried away with what they’re doing. It’s about implementing our game-plan. We want to play a quick tempo game, but we can’t let it get too loose.”
Vincent Clerc (France) – “It’s hard to explain why I’ve done so well against Ireland because a try always depends on the whole team’s performance.
“Maybe the play is open against the Irish and there’s a lot of space. As a result, the wingers have more chance of scoring. I like playing against the Irish. You get to touch the ball a lot and it’s fast paced.
“They played really well against the Welsh and they did not deserve to lose at the end. It is going to be a complicated tussle. They haven’t beaten us for a while but I think they are really in form at the moment.
“The ‘fighting spirit’ is one of their qualities but they have lots of other qualities, notably the lineout and keeping the ball.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2009: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 30 France 21, Croke Park
2010: RBS 6 Nations: France 33 Ireland 10, Stade de France
2011: RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 22 France 25, Aviva Stadium; Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: France 19 Ireland 12, Stade Chaban Delmas; Rugby World Cup Warm-Up: Ireland 22 France 26, Aviva Stadium