France host Ireland in Paris on Saturday: 14:25 kick-off
The Irish welcome back British and Irish Lions Sean O’Brien and Rob Kearney
Les Bleus make six changes with two new props coming in
Bizarrely, only France and England, who were the two teams that disappointed most at last year’s Rugby World Cup are still on for the Grand Slam following the opening weekend of Six Nations action.
Guy Noves’ new-look side laboured past Italy in Paris and now face a tougher test against Ireland. But, following their draw against Wales last week, Joe Schmidt’s side has been ravaged by injury, meaning Saturday’s clash in the French capital will likely be closer than expected.
France have made six changes for the visit of Ireland. Teddy Thomas, Maximo Mermoz, Yacouba Camara, Alexandre Flanquart, Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot all come into Les Bleus’ starting XV.
Damien Chouly starts at No.8 following Louis Picamoles’ tournament-ending hamstring injury during their narrow win over Italy. Gael Fickou also misses out for personal reasons.
For Ireland, injuries have forced Schmidt’s hand with Simon Zebo (knee) and Keith Earls (concussion) both ruled out at the 11th hour.
Sean O’Brien is back after hamstring trouble, with Tommy O’Donnell dropping to the bench, while Rob and Dave Kearney both start in the back three.
Ireland are unbeaten (W1, D1) on their past two trips to Paris, having lost the previous seven
They have won their past three games against France in all competitions and are unbeaten in their past five (W3, D2).
However, France have lost just three of their past 12 Six Nations matches against Ireland (W7, D2).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
France: Maxime Medard
Ireland: Rory Best
France: Maxime Medard, Teddy Thomas, Maxime Mermoz, Jonathan Danty, Virimi Vakatawa, Jules Plisson, Sebastien Bezy; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Uini Atoni, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara, Damien Chouly.
Replacements: Camille Chat, Rabah Slimani, Eddy Ben Arous, Paul Jedrasiak, Loann Goujon, Maxime Machenaud, Jean-Marc Doussain, Hugo Bonneval.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (captain), Nathan White, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Richard Strauss, James Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O’Donnell, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.