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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Close contest on the cards as Ireland aim to topple France

Les Bleus could be lifted by new coach

Matches between France and Ireland have often been close-fought
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Tournament second-favourites Ireland have attracted plenty of backing to deny England a third successive Six Nations title, and although they are going to have to do it the hard way with away fixtures against France and England, they might be quietly confident given the timing of their Paris trip.

Ireland have never won in both Paris and London in one Six Nations campaign, and they have recorded only two victories in their last 24 trips to France.

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But France have undergone a massive shake-up in the last month after a miserable 2017. They lost all three summer Tests in South Africa, failed to win any of their autumn internations, drawing with second-tier Japan, and finally lost patience with coach Guy Noves, who was sacked in December.

Bordeaux coach Jacques Brunel, who was in charge of Italy for five years, is at the helm, a choice that baffled many onlookers.

Ireland have had a far better time of it, ending their Six Nations with a win over England, then going beaten through the summer and autumn, albeit against limited opponents, and blooding plenty of young new talent on the way.

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They scored 229 points in their six June and November Tests, but their opponents were the USA, Japan, South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, and this test looks set to be far tougher than those assignments.

For all their indifferent form, France have supremely talented players with power, pace and flair - what has been missing is direction and, at times, desire. A new beginning could be just the thing to spark Les Bleus into life and the signs from the French camp are that Brunel has involved the players far more in shaping their game.

There are a host of unknowns but whether this turns into an open contest or a tight grind, the scores could be close.

Ireland look comfortable either way and the last three meetings in Paris have been a one-point win for France, a two-point victory for Ireland, and a draw.

It's rare for France to be given a start at home in the Six Nations and a seven-point cushion looks worth taking against an Ireland team who can be conservative and cagey on the road.

France +7
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For all their indifferent form, France have supremely talented players with power, pace and flair
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