The starting team Ireland should select to play France 3 weeks ago

The starting team Ireland should select to play France

Pitching CJ Stander back into battle just four weeks after he fractured his cheekbone may be a bit of stretch.

Heading into the final two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations and Ireland are not the only team coping with injuries in key positions.

Scotland's squad has been ravaged while England must do without Mako Vunipola and Courtney Lawes for the remainder of the championship. Wales have announced that Cory Hill, who scored a crucial try against England, will miss his country's final two games and joins Scott Williams on the sidelines.

Heading into the France game, Ireland have doubts over Garry Ringrose, Rhys Ruddock, Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy while Devin Toner is out of the championship. Stander is back in training for Munster but is recovering from fracturing his cheek in the defeat to England.

There may be a further blow, for Schmidt and Ireland, as the Irish Independent are reporting that Joey Carbery's hamstring issue will force him out of the final two championship games.

Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The biggest loss is Leavy, who was one of Leinster and Ireland's best players last season. Leavy would have pushed Sean O'Brien and Josh van der Flier hard to start at openside for the England game.

His dynamic, abrasive and ball-carrying presence has been sorely missed. O'Brien has done a decent job, but he is still getting back to the bullocking levels he is capable of. A Leinster Rugby fitness update on Monday read:

'Luke McGrath (knee) and Dan Leavy (calf) are... set to progress their injury rehabilitation this week but remain unavailable for selection.'

Heading into the round four fixture against France, Schmidt is set to bring back some of his more senior players. Sean Cronin missed his chance to impressive, from the off, against Italy while Quinn Roux and Ultan Dillane may both drop out.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are both expected to be fit for the March 10 fixture and, if so, would be worth looking at together. Saying that, Bundee Aki is rarely far away from Schmidt's starting XVs.

OUR IRELAND TEAM TO FACE FRANCE

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong

4. James Ryan
5. Iain Henderson

6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Sean O'Brien
8. Jack Conan

9. Conor Murray
10. Johnny Sexton

11. Jacob Stockdale
12. Robbie Henshaw
13. Garry Ringrose
14. Keith Earls

15. Rob Kearney

WATCH THAT HOUSE OF RUGBY EPISODE HERE: