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Test Match Preview: France v Ireland

Test Match Preview: France v Ireland

A first away win for Ireland over France since 2000 would be the ideal response to last weekend’s late lapse against Scotland. Leo Cullen has held onto the captaincy and record points scorer Ronan O’Gara is among the changes in personnel.

2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP WARM-UP TEST: Saturday, August 13

FRANCE v IRELAND, Stade Chaban Delmas, 8.45pm local time/7.45pm Irish time (live RTÉ Two)

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Team News: The Ireland team to play France in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Bordeaux shows a total of nine changes to the side that took on Scotland last weekend.

The back-three remains unchanged with Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble and Luke Fitzgerald all named in the starting line-up.

Paddy Wallace stays at inside centre, with Keith Earls getting his first taste of action this season at outside centre.

Ronan O’Gara and Eoin Reddan will form the half-back combination, taking over from Jonathan Sexton, who kicked Ireland’s only points against Scotland, and Tomas O’Leary.

In the forwards, one of the changes is a positional switch as Donnacha Ryan moves from the second row to the blindside flanker berth.

Donncha O’Callaghan comes in to partner Leo Cullen, who will again captain the team from the second row.

The other change to the back row is the inclusion of openside flanker Sean O’Brien, who starts his first game of the August schedule.

There is an entirely new front row, with Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross replacing Tom Court, Sean Cronin and the benched Tony Buckley.

Amongst the replacements, Paul O’Connell and Jamie Heaslip have been named in their first matchday 22 of the season, along with uncapped former Ireland Under-20 scrum half Conor Murray.

Meanwhile, Biarritz Olympique back rower Raphaël Lakafia is the only Test newcomer named in the France team for this weekend’s clash.

Marc Lièvremont’s selected side includes five players who started the Six Nations win over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in February.

They are Damien Traille, who played in the centre that day, François Trinh-Duc, Julien Pierre, captain Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy.

Harinordoquy’s Biarritz Olympique club-mate Raphaël Lakafia will make his senior debut for France in the back row.

The 22-year-old made his Heineken Cup debut last season and wore the number 8 jersey in Biarritz’s 9-6 pool defeat to Ulster at Ravenhill last January.

A number of players who have been sidelined by injury will get a chance to impress the management.

Starting hooker Dimitri Szarzewski has not played since January due to an Achilles problem, while February was the last time centre Maxime Mermoz saw competitive action.

Traille, who has recovered from a heel injury, will start in the back-three along with Vincent Clerc who had surgery on his right knee a fortnight ago.

Clerc’s Toulouse colleague Romain Millo-Chluski slots into the second row for his first Test appearance since last November’s loss to Australia.

Trinh-Duc will be partnered at half-back by Dimitri Yachvili. The experienced Biarritz clubman will be making just his fifth start for France in three years.

Ticket details for the game are available here.

FRANCE: Damien Traille (Biarritz Olympique); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), David Marty (Perpignan), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan), Alexis Palisson (Toulon); François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz Olympique); Sylvain Marconnet (Biarritz Olympique), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Luc Ducalcon (Castres Olympique), Julien Pierre (Clermont Auvergne), Romain Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) (capt), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique), Raphaël Lakafia (Biarritz Olympique).

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), Lionel Nallet (Racing Metro 92), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne), David Skrela (Toulouse), Maxime Médard (Toulouse).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster), Paddy Wallace (Ballymena/Ulster); Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster); Ronan O’Gara (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution/Munster), Leo Cullen (Blackrock College/Leinster) (capt), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster).

Replacements: Jerry Flannery (Shannon/Munster), Tony Buckley (Sale Sharks), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster).

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Dave Pearson, Stuart Terheege (both England)
Television Match Official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): France to win: 1/7; Draw: 25/1; Ireland to win: 9/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Leo Cullen (Ireland) – “We need to up our intensity for France and make them defend. The team was a little bit quiet against Scotland and I think that’s because of the fatigue.

“Defensively we looked very comfortable for most of the game against Scotland. One of the big things for us has been working on the shape of our attack and that will be easier if we have more ball.

“We have more experienced players this week and the game is easier when you’re playing on the front foot. We struggled to put Scotland though a number of phases but this week we have some good ball carriers.

“France have picked an experienced team, but any French team will be competitive. The depth they have over there is far greater than we’ll ever have. They have massive quality throughout.

“There will be a fair amount of pressure on France as they’re playing at home. That has a certain responsibility from their point of view, so we’ll have to counteract what they produce at the start.

“Everyone’s looking for the same things from these warm-up games. We’re trying different combinations, getting game-time under our belts and building momentum for the World Cup.

“Sometimes people make a lot out of these games. It’s hard to know what to think about them – we’ll probably look back and then judge how important they were.”

Marc Lièvremont (France) – “Yes, I am satisfied with the way training has been going, actually it is above my expectations.

“It is true we’re not in the habit of this rhythm of work, to have the time to work, to develop the athletic qualities, cohesion, to exchange with the players over the strategy. I was nevertheless very careful as we had chosen a very ambitious preparatory programme.

“Everything is going very well for the moment. What is interesting, is that the players have stuck to everything that we have proposed, even when we have urged them to increase the physical work despite there being a certain weariness and general fatigue.

“The warm-up matches are more than just friendlies. They are the only two matches before the World Cup (for us).

“We need to see if the players have the capacity to maintain the rhythm, if things are functioning alright, to see how we fare against counter attacks by a really good side, and to see the enthusiasm and aggression of the players.

“We are anticipating two really good matches while acknowledging that, up until the first pool matches, there are bound to be errors and not everything will be perfect.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: Declan Kidney

Head-To-Head: France v Ireland

Cullen Calls For Increase In Intensity

Irish Rugby TV: Eoin Reddan

In Pics: Ireland Training At Carton House

Irish Rugby TV: Paul O’Connell

Recent Meetings –

2008: RBS 6 Nations: France 26 Ireland 21, Stade de France
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