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Ireland vs France: Four Critical Battlegrounds That Will Decide The Game

Ireland vs France: Four Critical Battlegrounds That Will Decide The Game
Brett Igoe
By Brett Igoe
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Rugby fans (and couples) make their romantic Valentine's weekend trip to Paris this weekend for a showdown between the two top sides in the 2022 Six Nations Championship. While love will be in the air on the banks of the Seine, there will be very little love during Ireland v France. A heavily Toulouse-influenced France will take on an even heavier Leinster-influenced Ireland, who are now emerging as one of France’s rivals for the 2023 World Cup.

Ireland have only won twice in Paris since Brian O’Driscoll announced himself to the rugby world with his hat-trick performance in 2000, while their last success came after a Johnny Sexton 41-phase drop goal deep into injury time in 2018.

This week's The Break-Down looks at some of the areas that France will want to target and what Ireland can expect in their Six Nations showdown, and how France used their opening match v Italy to polish their game plan for Saturday.

Ireland v France: the battlegrounds

1. Defence pressure 

Much of France’s gameplan for this Ireland v France fixture will revolve around applying maximum defensive pressure on Ireland. The French defence coach Shaun Edwards, will look to mastermind a variety of defensive tricks that will include pushing the defence line up hard on the outside to force Ireland back into the massive French forwards.

If Ireland do manage to get into the wider channels, France will look to test the breakdown skills of Conway, Hansen and Keenan by looking at opportunities to counterruck with one of their colossal backrowers. Jelonch demonstrated this effectively last weekend against Italy.

Dupont will be given a free licence to cause as much damage as he can by floating around the defence line and looking to pressure Ireland’s main playmaker, Sexton, and/or test the passing skills of Aki, Hansen, and Keenan.

Six Nations France vs Italy
Antoine Dupont Six Nations

2. The lineout battle


Ireland under Paul O’Connell have looked to dictate where the opposition wins their lineout, by denying teams quality ball. They do this by defending the middle and back of the lineout with Ryan and Beirne, and leaving the front of the lineout free.

Six Nations Ireland vs Wales

Against Italy, France showed that they are prepared for this and can launch attacks from this type of possession and will take whatever space is available. 

Gregory Aldritt France Six Nations

3. The French aerial bombs

To slow Ireland's defensive linespeed, expect France to go to aerial bombs as part of their kicking plan. Hugo Keenan surprisingly struggled under the wet and windy Dublin sky last Saturday and dropped a couple of contestable kicks from Biggar. He can expect an evening of it in Paris with Fickou and Penaud coming straight for him and the ball.

4. Ireland’s edge defence

While Mack Hansen impressed in his debut, Wales did not have enough possession to test his defensive capabilities. That certainly won't be the case during Ireland v France. Ireland’s backs will need to keep their concentration for 80+ minutes against this talented French unit. Hansen and co will need to work very hard to prevent France from getting into the outside space and will need to cut any opportunities.

edge defence six nations
Ireland Wales Six Nations

Will Saturday's victor win the 2022 Six Nations?

While the winner of Ireland v France may go a long way towards deciding this year’s Six Nations Championship, it will also provide a massive opportunity for Andy Farrell to evaluate how far his team has come since he changed to a heavily Leinster-based team and gameplan.

With Ireland 18 months out from the World Cup in France, what a great way for Ireland to announce to the French public that this team might be the ones they have to watch

See Also: British Pundits In Awe Of 'Ruthless' Irish Forward Pack In Six Nations

Six Nations, Ugo Monye and Andy Goode reaction

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