A huge match in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday as France meet Ireland. In-form Russ Petty (@rpetty80) gives us his verdict.
France v Ireland | Sunday 16:45 | ITV1
Ireland have won the Six Nations both years since Joe Schimdt took charge, while France under Philippe Saint-André have not finished higher than fourth. Those coaches have test win rates of 76% and 47% respectively and the last time Les Bleus beat this opponent was August 2011.
That all helps to explain why Ireland were deemed favourites for Pool D and this match but there is little chance of them taking this opponent lightly.
France have reached a World Cup semi-final in six of the seven previous tournaments. They don’t have a Six Nations title to show from the year before this event, as the teams in 1998,2002,2006 and 2010 did – but there is a sense that they are far better prepared than at any other time under Saint- André.
Since the warm-up games, the outgoing France coach has shown consistency in selection with the front row and halfback combinations starting five of the previous six matches and the centres four.
In comparison, Ireland have used seven different midfield combinations in the last eight matches and with Jared Payne ruled out will have to rely on a pairing that have only begun one other previous game together.
The winner of this pool gets to avoid New Zealand as a quarter-final opponent and will have an extra day to recover before the knockout stage.
France are expecting an aerial bombardment and Ireland will have planned for behemoths like Louis Picamoles and Mathieu Bastareaud to be unleashed on their playmakers. When the teams met earlier in the year there was just the one try scored and there is reason to think this too could be a low scoring match.
Bar the 55-35 defeat at Twickenham, France’s defence has been pretty solid – allowing an average of 14 points in the other ten games this year. Ireland have conceded an average of 14 points in their 12 matches in 2015. The four games between the teams since 2012 produced 34,26,42 and 29 total points.
France v Ireland – Under 37.5 Points (9/10 888 Sport)