Find out why our rugby scribe is backing an upset result when Ireland meet France at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.
A resurgent Ireland will look to further put their disastrous Round 1 result behind them but should be wary of complacency against a tricky French outfit at the Aviva on Saturday.
Ireland v France | Saturday 25 February | Aviva Stadium | 18:50
To Win (80 Mins)Ireland 3/10 | Draw 21/1 | France 51/20
HandicapIreland (-7.5) 17/20 | France (+7.5) 17/20
Last weekend’s 53-point thrashing of Italy marked a welcome return to winning ways for Joe Shmidt’s Irishmen. Their clinical, classy performance served to put their embarrassing opening round defeat to Scotland behind them, and the All Black-slayers will once again believe that they can sneak home their third title in four seasons. A four-try bonus point was secure as early as the 35th-minute of their last encounter and, playing at home this weekend against France, the Irish boys will be confident of making it two bonus points from two.
The late withdrawal of skipper Rory Best to a stomach bug had no ill-effect – no pun intended – on his side, as debutant Niall Scannell seamlessly took over at no. 2, while Jamie Heaslip assumed the captaincy. Although they came up against arguably the poorest side in the competition, each of Ireland’s nine tries were still something to behold, each set up in classic Shmidt-style, with organisation and accuracy reining supreme.
The rise and rise of CJ Stander continues to defy belief, with the Springbok-reject never failing to impress. His hat-trick last week consisted of skill, pace and power – even a speculative downfield kick of his allowed Craig Gilroy (last weekend’s other hat-trick man) to dot down for his second. It would seem that the loose forward is hardly able to put a foot wrong at the moment and a place in Warren Gatland’s British & Irish Lions Test team surely beckons. The man himself will be thinking of no such thing, however, as he continues to focus all of his energy into Ireland’s title challenge. The Munsterman is an inspiration to all those around him, and he will look to his teammates to match his level of intensity when France visit this weekend.
France were good in their 22-16 defeat of Scotland two weekends ago. Much like their performance against England in round 1, Guy Novés’ men relied heavily upon sheer physicality and power in contact, something Scotland just couldn’t cope with over eighty minutes. Novés will call for more of the same when his team travels to Dublin this weekend, although he will be aware of creating the platform for more try-scoring opportunities to be created by side if they are to challenge Ireland throughout the game’s entirety. More of France’s cheeky offloads will have to go to hand this weekend to trouble the solid Irish defence, while more of Scott Spedding’s mazy runs will also do!
It has been quite some time since France last delivered a performance of any substance, but this weekend gives them the perfect opportunity to do so. After two solid displays (despite the loss to England), Guilhem Guirado will push his men towards producing a more powerful and complete one, and an upset win in Dublin could just prove to be the catalyst this team requires to make people stand up and take notice. Ireland will consider a win this weekend academic, which gives France an awesome gap to make them pay for their presumptuousness. Who knows what an upset victory would mean to this French clan? It could just be the spark needed to ignite greater things and a new beginning under Novés…
Verdict: France 51/20
Although Ireland are heavy favourites, I’m backing France to punish their hosts’ complacency this weekend, and record an upset by between 3 and 5 points.