The Ireland XV that should start against France 2 months ago

The Ireland XV that should start against France

The championship has been blown wide open.

If this one gets the midweek go-ahead, all eyes will be on Ireland France next Saturday night.

Victory for Scotland over 14-man France has ended Les Bleus' hopes of claiming their first Grand Slam since 2010. A late try by France captain Charles Ollivon may yet prove vital when the final standings are decided upon.

Likewise, England could be stung by easing off the gas in the final moments of their recent wins over Ireland and Wales and, as a consequence, leaking late scores.

After round four of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations - with Ireland's match against Italy to be played at a later date - here is how we are looking:

Ireland will either make up that postponed game against Italy in late June or around the time of the November internationals. Should they draw against or beat France in Paris next Saturday evening, that game against the Azzurri would have a crucial bearing on the destination of the championship.

Ireland held a three-day camp during a break in games that has been extended due to the ongoing issues caused by the Coronavirus arriving in Europe. Andy Farrell invited down the Ulster squad to the IRFU High Performance Centre, in Dublin, and there was, by all accounts, a lively and fiercely contested hit-out in training.

What Ireland may be lacking in match sharpness, they will gain in freshness and it may play in their favour against a France side that had to play for 55 minutes with only 14 players after Mohammed Haouas was sent off for a punch on James Ritchie.

In terms of the team Farrell will select, the shame for many Irish hopefuls is that they did not get a chance to impress against Italy. Farrell may still have changes in mind after his side were well beaten by England in their last championship game.

Dave Kilcoyne in action against Wales in August 2019. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Cian Healy has been ruled out of the remainder of the championship so Dave Kilcoyne is expected to come in, and he would be our loosehead choice. Elsewhere in the front row, Rob Herring just about edges out Ronan Kelleher will Tadhg Furlong starts at tighthead.

James Ryan and Iain Henderson are reunited in the second row, with Leinster's Devin Toner in reserve [Ryan Baird is not named in the updated, 34-man squad. Caelan Doris comes into our back row and CJ Stander switches to blindside. The other tempting option here is Stander-O'Mahony-Doris.

Our big call here is something that should have happened from the first game of the championship - John Cooney in for Conor Murray. The Ulster scrumhalf is up there with Antoine Dupont for the form 9 in Europe and was lively off the bench against England.

Elsewhere, with Garry Ringrose and Will Addison both out, the rest of the backline is unchanged and Jacob Stockdale can consider himself fortunate after his defensive shocker at Twickenham.

Our Ireland team to face France

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Andrew Conway
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. John Cooney

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rob Herring
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. James Ryan
5. Iain Henderson
6. CJ Stander
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris

Subs: Ronan Kelleher, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Keith Earls.

The Ireland France game kicks off at 7:25pm in Paris next Saturday, March 14.


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Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are joined in the House of Rugby studio by Jerry Flannery to discuss the 35-man squad for the Ireland France game, the ongoing fixture conundrum caused by the Coronavirus and there's a nice Eimear Considine chat.