Ireland can keep their slim title hopes alive with a win over France at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday the 10th of March.
Ireland v France
10 March 17h00
To Win (80 mins)
The defending champions’ round one loss to England has hurt them in a big way and a similar result this weekend will see them fall out of the race for the title.
A bonus-point victory for Joe Shmidt’s men is certainly not out of reach and one would think they will be pining for one to keep the pressure on the likes of Wales and England.
They had to earn their 26-16 win in Rome a fortnight ago, with the Italians proving themselves to be well up for the challenge. The tough nature of that fixture may well stand them in good stead ahead of their clash with France, a side who proved in their 27-10 round three result over Scotland that they are not completely beyond redemption.
Jacques Brunel’s charges put on quite a show in Paris two weeks ago, with their willingness to throw the ball around leading to some quite spectacular scores. While they may not be able to play as expansively in Dublin on Sunday, they will doubtless have taken some confidence out of what was a good performance.
Again, a lot will rest on France’s youthful halfback pairing of Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont who will be tasked with the decision-making. Coming up against Jonathan Sexton and Connor Murray, Sunday will act as a proper litmus test for the young stars.
With rain a possibility, Ireland may look to a territory-based approach to strangle the life out of the French and starve them of possession. The visitors boast a gargantuan pack of forwards and they simply must match their opponents at the gain line if they are to have a say in the contest.
Verdict: Ireland bonus-point win
Ireland still mean business and as encouraging as France were a fortnight ago, back the hosts to claim an invaluable bonus-point victory.