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RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland v France

RBS 6 Nations Preview: Ireland v France

Two teams that have struggled for results in recent weeks will collide in front of a capacity crowd at the Aviva Stadium, with Ireland hoping to put away the scoring chances they missed against Scotland last time out.

2013 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, March 9

IRELAND (4th) v FRANCE (6th), Aviva Stadium, 5pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC One)

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Team News: The Ireland team to play France in the RBS 6 Nations at Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening has been named.

There are three changes from the last outing, with Mike McCarthy and Cian Healy coming into the forwards in place of Donncha O’Callaghan and Tom Court respectively.

Craig Gilroy has failed to recover sufficiently from his groin strain and has been ruled out of the game with Fergus McFadden replacing him on the right wing.

Openings had been left in the matchday 23 for the starting and replacement out-half positions due to Paddy Jackson suffering from a tight hamstring, but he came through both kicking and training sessions as expected and will start on Saturday.

The uncapped Ian Madigan earns his first call-up to an international matchday squad as he is named among the replacements.

The replacement tighthead prop slot has also been confirmed with the uncapped Munster prop Stephen Archer named on the bench.

Jonathan Sexton will require a further week of his rehabilitation programme on his hamstring injury, while Declan Fitzpatrick has also been ruled out of the game due to a calf strain.

Head coach Declan Kidney said: “You can never second guess things in the Six Nations. You are constantly surprised by the way things pan out. I believe the first 20 minutes will decide things. Who settles first will be crucial.

“Against England, France ran the ball and kept possession better, they had one or two chances that ran abegging but there was not much in that game between the two teams.

“They were strong up front and I thought they were much more patient than they had been in the matches against Italy and Wales. One freak turnover (which led to Manu Tuilagi’s try) decided the game.

“Against England, we set ourselves up well and got to level terms. We also put ourselves into good positions. We just needed to execute better and be more patient. Sometimes you can try too hard.”

Meanwhile, France head coach Philippe Saint-André has made three changes in personnel for their Dublin showdown with Ireland.

All three changes come in the back-line with Toulon’s Frederic Michalak returning at out-half in place of Francois Trinh-Duc, and Toulouse duo Florian Fritz and Maxime Medard starting at outside centre and on the left wing respectively.

It will be Medard’s final international outing since February of last year when he tore cruciate ligaments in his right knee against Scotland.

Trinh-Duc and Mathieu Bastareaud drop to the replacements bench with Benjamin Fall missing out on a place in the 23-man squad.

The Michalak-Morgan Parra combination is the third different half-back partnership France will have fielded in this year’s Championship.

Parra, who will make his 50th Test appearance on Saturday, was joined by Trinh-Duc for the 23-13 defeat to England last time out.

Les Bleus opened the Six Nations with Maxime Machenaud and Michalak in the number 9 and 10 shirts respectively, Machenaud is on the bench for the trip to Dublin.

The French management have kept faith with the starting pack from the English game, with hooker Benjamin Kayser flanked by his Clermont Auvergne club-mate Thomas Domingo and the experienced Nicolas Mas in the front row.

The two-times capped Christophe Samson links up again with Yoann Maestri in the second row, with captain Thierry Dusautoir leading an all-Toulouse back row.

There are two new additions to the bench in hooker Guilhem Guraido and lock Sebastien Vahaamahina, with Dimitri Szarzewski and Jocelino Suta the players to make way.

Hoping his side can get back to winning ways, Saint-André said: “The French team’s role is to win and win well but in our situation, we’d take a 3-0 victory.

“You’ve got to make your own luck. We didn’t face up to the situation in the first three matches (against Italy, Wales and England).

“We’ve got to score when we’re playing well, concede fewer points when we’re not (and) be better defensively.

“Against England, when we scored, we weren’t aggressive enough in the first line of defence. We missed a lot of first tackles. We’ve worked on that to be tighter against Ireland. We’ve got to learn to win matches again.”

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD/Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Dublin University/Leinster) (capt).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster).

FRANCE: Yoann Huget (Toulouse); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Frederic Michalak (Toulon), Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne); Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), Benjamin Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Christophe Samson (Castres Olympique), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) (capt), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), Luc Ducalcon (Racing Metro 92), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Perpignan), Antonie Claassen (Castres Olympique), Maxime Machenaud (Racing Metro 92), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon).

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes, Greg Garner (both England)
Television Match Official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 11/10; Draw: 22/1; France to win: 5/6

Pre-Match Quotes: Fergus McFadden (Ireland) – “Over the last four or five years there has been bit of a clean-out due to players retiring through injury or some guys not playing to the same level that they were for years.

“That’s just the nature of it and it’s a good thing that there is now a young spine to the team that can kick on.

“The Scotland game was disappointing, but had our passes gone to hand we could have beaten them pretty comfortably. Our Championship has had its ups and downs.

“The way that the Six Nations has panned out over the last few years, teams have been getting stronger and stronger. Italy beating France in the first game summed up how far they’ve come and showed there are no easy games.

“Injuries happen so you just have to get on with it, but thankfully we have strength in depth in Irish rugby at the moment.

“It’s a long Championship and I knew that I just needed to bide my time. Now my chance has come in a big game and I need to show that maybe I should have been there from the start.

“I like to think that I bring a bit more to the equation than place-kicking. Paddy (Jackson) is the first choice kicker and we have full confidence in him.

“If I’m called upon to kick I’m more than confident to do it, but as it stands Paddy is kicking and the team is very confident about that.”

Morgan Parra (France) – “Frederic (Michalak) is our number one kicker, and I’ll be there to help if he needs me to. We’ll try to communicate, and if at times he doesn’t feel up to the task, I will take over.

“But if the choice had been given to me, I would have picked Frederic as number one. He’s in good form right now, he took over for me against England when I was struggling a bit.

“You need a clear hierarchy to prepare for a game, the number one kicker needs to know from the beginning of the week that he’ll have to take his responsibilities.

“It doesn’t change much before the game anyway, or during the game. I’ll do it if Fred needs me to, right now he doesn’t.

“There are some factors that will make the confrontations more special and likely more difficult for us, like that fact that Ireland lost in Scotland two weeks ago, or that it might be Brian O’Driscoll’s last home game for Ireland.

“We know how tough it can be to play in that arena (the Aviva Stadium), and this will be another tough challenge for us.

“It would have been better to travel to Ireland for higher stakes, but we have our own sources of motivation, honor, pride of wearing that jersey, the will to turn things around.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Fergus McFadden

Irish Rugby TV: Luke Marshall

Irish Rugby TV: In The Gym With Quinny And The Ireland Team

Irish Fans Get Behind Team For Sell-Out Game

Head-To-Head: Ireland v France

Ireland v France: Facts & Figures

Recent Meetings –

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
2012: RBS 6 Nations: France 17 Ireland 17, Aviva Stadium

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