France v Ireland: Tight contest expected in Six Nations title decider

France host Ireland in the final Six Nations game on Saturday night with both teams still in contention to win the title...

France v Ireland
Saturday, 20:05
Live on BBC Two

France aiming for show stopping win

The final game of this year's delayed Six Nations takes place on Saturday night with both France and Ireland still in the running to win the title. Both sides will know what they need to do with England playing Italy away earlier in the day. For Ireland, the requirement is simple with a bonus point victory guaranteeing top spot while France will probably need a big win to have any chance of overhauling England.

France's renaissance has gathered pace under the leadership of the new coaching team of Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards this year. An opening 24-17 win against World Cup finalists England in Paris was the perfect start and they followed up with a victory at home to Italy. Romain Ntamack led France to a 27-23 win in Wales but their Grand Slam hopes were ruined at Murrayfield after losing 28-17 to Scotland in March.

Galthie makes just one change from the team which defeated Wales 38-21 in last weekend's international warm-up. Arthur Vincent comes in at centre to replace the injured Teddy Thomas with Gael Fickou switching to the wing. Anthony Bouthier suffered a head injury against Wales but the full-back has recovered to take his place in the Six Nations decider.

Ireland need bonus-point win to seal title

Ireland launched their Six Nations campaign with a scrappy home win against Scotland. Andy Farrell's side extended their winning start with a 24-14 victory over Wales but their Triple Crown hopes were scuppered after a disappointing 24-12 defeat to England at Twickenham. This was their last match before the pandemic halted the competition.

After a seven month delay, Ireland returned to action last weekend with a 50-17 bonus point win against Italy in Dublin. Winger Hugo Keenan celebrated his international debut by scoring twice as Ireland scored seven tries. The win was enough to send them top of the table but Farrell will know his team have to raise their level again if they are to claim five points in Paris.

Ireland make just one change to the team which defeated Italy with centre Robbie Henshaw replacing the injured Garry Ringrose. Cian Healy will make his 100th Test appearance with the prop hoping to help Ireland win the title on his personal milestone. Jacob Stockdale continues in his new role at full-back with Keenan and Andrew Conway lining up on the wing.

Recent clashes have gone the way of Ireland with wins in their last three matches against France but this will be the first one against Galthie's team. The likelihood is this will be a tight contest because 11 of the last 12 meetings have been settled by no more than 12 points. Both teams need a high-scoring win but this looks a tall order.

Ireland cannot afford to be reckless in their search for a bonus point win because France have an array of attacking talent which can punish any mistakes. It is likely both teams will ultimately come up short in their title hopes, with so much in England's favour going into the final round. France, who are edging favouritism, have won their last six matches on home soil and the improving hosts could have the edge in this match with a narrow victory predicted in Paris.

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