Confident France, led by the ebullient Antoine Dupont, pose a daunting challenge for Andy Farrell’s injury-hit side
Ireland have never started a Six Nations campaign with back-to-back defeats and if they could choose a side to play after last weekend’s reverse in Wales and the loss of a core of experienced players, a resurgent France would be last on the list.
Les Bleus are the favourites for the title following England’s defeat to Scotland, but France are still on a voyage of discovery. “You have to be prepared for any challenge, anywhere and against anyone,” says Fabien Galthié, who spoke about Ireland’s settled style of play before noting that the presence of Billy Burns and Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back – the first time one or other of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray has not started a Six Nations match since Cardiff in 2011 – added a pinch of unpredictability. “You have to prepare to experience chaos. We have to be ready for the unexpected, even if we do not think Ireland will change the way they play too much.”