Six Nations: France v Ireland match preview

Last Updated: 15/03/14 12:45pm

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Ireland will be aiming to make sure Brian O'Driscoll bows out in style as they bid to clinch the Six Nations title for the first time since 2009 when they take on France.

Victory for the visitors in Paris in the final match of this year's tournament on Saturday will not only see them crowned champions but also give retiring centre O'Driscoll the perfect finish to his stellar international career.

"A lot of people have overlooked the fact they have an outside chance to win it."
Joe Schmidt on France

While the British and Irish Lion will hope to end on a high, triumphing in France - something Ireland have only done once in the last 42 years - would also cap a superb debut campaign in charge for head coach Joe Schmidt.

However, the former Leinster boss knows Les Bleus, who themselves still have an outside chance of being crowned champions, will be determined to maintain their proud record against the Irish on home soil and spoil O'Driscoll's 141st and final Test appearance.

"It's a bit trite, this is our patch this is what we defend: they take immense pride in that," said Schmidt.

"Often when a player is fatigued they will mentally just switch off a little bit. But it's a lot less likely to happen when you're on your home patch.

"They dig a little bit deeper to make sure you do what's required of you. There's more of an edge, because you just can't afford to lose at home.

"A lot of people have overlooked the fact they have an outside chance to win it."

Midfield battle

The midfield battle that sees O'Driscoll and long-time centre partner Gordon D'Arcy go up against the sizeable pairing of Mathieu Bastareaud and Gael Fickou could be crucial in deciding the outcome of the match.

Yet for the backs to sparkle the forwards will have to do the heavy work, and on that front Ireland are boosted by the return of Peter O'Mahony; the flanker has recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the 47-6 thrashing of Italy in Dublin last weekend.

His return means Iain Henderson drops to the bench alongside Ian Madigan, who could play for the first time in this year's competition having been selected for his versatility.

As well as handing a starting berth to teenager Fickou, France coach Phillipe Saint-Andre has also recalled Louis Picamoles to the pack. Up front, Dimitri Szarzewski replaces Brice Mach as hooker having recovered from an ankle injury.

The most notable change for the home side, though, sees Remi Tales come in at fly-half. He takes over in the pivotal position from Jules Plisson, who has been dropped completely from the squad.

While a French win could see them sneak in to be crowned champions, it seems more likely such a result would mean England - who play Italy earlier on Saturday - take the honours.

France: 15 Dulin, 14 Huget, 13 Bastareaud, 12 Fickou, 11 Medard, 10 Tales, 9 Machenaud; 1 Domingo, 2 Szarzewski, 3 Mas, 4 Pape (capt), 5 Maestri, 6 Picamoles, 7 Chouly, 8 Lapandry

Replacements: Guirado, Debaty, Slimani, Flanquart, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Doussain, Mermoz

Ireland: 15 R Kearney, 14 Trimble, 13 B O'Driscoll, 12 D'Arcy, 11 D Kearney, 10 Sexton, 9 Murray; 1 Healy, 2 Best, 3 Ross, 4 Toner, 5 O'Connell, 6 O'Mahony, 7 Henry, 8 Heaslip.

Replacements: 16 Cronin, 17 McGrath, 18 Moore, 19 Henderson, 20 Murphy, 21 Reddan, 22 Madigan, 23 McFadden.

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