The Ireland team Andy Farrell needs to start when France come to town
We always knew this second round encounter would be pivotal.
Andy Farrell's Ireland team got their 2023 Six Nations campaign off to a rousing start, on Saturday. A day later, France needed a late try to deny Italy another famous win.
Come Saturday at the Aviva Stadium, all that will matter is two sides going full tilt at each other to keep their Grand Slam ambitions going. Such is the beauty of the Six Nations that the opening weekend usually snuffs out at least half of its competitors' dreams of claiming that full, grand sweep.
After Ireland pulverised Wales 34-10, in Cardiff, Virgin Media showed the results of a TV poll on who viewers believe will win the championship. Ireland had 76% of the votes but Joe Molloy pointed out the numbers might not be so high when French broadcasters run a similar poll.
After a stretch of dominance over France [2014 to 2019], last year's champions have won their three most recent meetings against Ireland. In Paris, during the 2022 championship, Les Bleus were sensational and monstrous in the first half only for Ireland to rally in the second, before eventually losing 30-24. Farrell's men rebounded to win a Triple Crown before heading to New Zealand to win a Test series and sweeping their November games to finish the year as World No.1.
France won all 10 of their Test outings in 2022 and are only second as they did not pick up many rankings points on their two-Test summer tour to a Japan team currently ranked 10th.
Farrell will name his Ireland team to face France on Thursday afternoon, and we would like to see two changes to the XV that accounted for Wales.
No changes to winning Ireland team
As Ireland were racing into a 27-3 lead against Wales, the Sportsfile photographers were uploading a couple of pictures to their website.
In one, Jamison Gibson-Park stood beside Jacob Stockdale. In the other, Rónan Kelleher, Gavin Coombes, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy and Jordan Larmour were in the stands and up for the anthems. Robbie Henshaw, a world-class centre, was watching the match back in Ireland but should be back in camp for the Italy game. That fact, and those snaps, are scary indicators of this Irish depth.
And these lads are in the stands... ☘️ pic.twitter.com/aYWdHp57yx
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) February 4, 2023
Finlay Bealham had a rock solid game at tighthead and showed that Ireland have a fine option should Tadhg Furlong not be able to start any more matches in this championship. With Furlong out again, this week, Bealham keeps the jersey.
Conor Murray showed he can play with pace and accuracy when his team is purring, and providing go-forward ball. Gibson-Park is out again so Murrat remains our Ireland team.
Elsewhere, with Cian Healy also out every other position stays the same.
OUR IRELAND TEAM TO FACE FRANCE
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris
Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O'Toole, Iain Henderson, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Bundee Aki.
Ireland vs. France kicks off at 2:15pm on Saturday, February 11th at the Aviva Stadium, in Dublin.
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