Irlande- Francia – kick off 3pm Sunday 11th February, Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Ireland -v- France. Grand Slam Champions 2009-v- Grand Slam Champions 2010. Make no bones about it. This game represents a seminal moment in both sides seasons.
Whoever wins this game will surely fancy their chances for the championship.
The question all Irish fans will ask is whether we are too shorn of too many star names to mount a challenge to Marc Lievremont’s stylish side.
Judging on last week’s performance against Italy there are serious question marks on the surface about Ireland.
However on closer inspection last week in Rome, the scrum was refereed harshly, the backs were uncharacteristically off key in handling and McFadden, Ross and O’ Brien all fronted up well on their Six Nations debuts.
Added to that is that our player of the Autumn series Jamie Heaslip is back in the fold and will be chomping at the bit to attack the French.
This is Ireland’s first Six Nations match in the Aviva and what better way than to crown it with victory against the French?
As Declan Kidney said during the week, the Irish have a tendency to be ultra self critical of themselves. This team in particular has been guilty of that in the past.
Alas, it is imposssible to constantly be perfect in every match. Ireland are unlikely to play as poorly again with a mistake ridden game like in Rome.
The unfortunate thing for Ireland is that France seem to have a relatively settled look about them again this week.
Arguably they look stronger now with Poitrenaud at Full back and Traille at centre.
The winning and losing of the match though will come in the battle of the 9′s and 10′s.
For France, Parra and Trinh Duc were magnificent against Scotland showing breathtaking skills time and again.
Meanwhile in Rome, O’ Leary and Sexton were ponderous for the most part and in the end only the guile of O’ Gara saved the men in green.
O’ Leary and Sexton have a chance to redeem themselves this week and will need to assert some control on the game from the first whistle.
As Brian O’Driscoll has warned if Ireland do not start well, the game will be gone from us before we know it.
However with Heaslip back in an exciting back row of Wallace and O’ Brien, with O Connell firing again at lock and the backs hopefully taking advantage of good possession, I am confident Ireland can undo the French.
A quick start is vital and if we are within 3 points at half time, I expect the French to maybe start questioning their ability to win in front of a passionate Irish crowd. A win is not out of the question so lets back Kidney’s men to do the business.