France coach Bernard Laporte has named five changes for the Ireland clash on Sunday.
Two changes are due to injury, with centre Florian Fritz and winger Cedric Heymans crying off with ailments from the 39-3 victory over Italy. Perpignan’s David Marty and Toulouse’s Vincent Clerc come into the starting side as a result.
The trio of Sylvain Marconnet, Pascal Pape and Imanol Harinordoquy are elevated from the bench in a bid to give as many players game time as possible.
“We decided to rotate the players to maintain a competition among our squad,” Laporte said. “The players who are going to start the match on Sunday will be very eager to show they are as good as the ones who won in Rome last Saturday. They know they are in competition with each other.”
This Six Nations clash will be the first international played at Croke Park with Lansdowne Road being rebuilt. Ireland have shown themselves to be a resurgent force in recent times, and many have billed this encounter against the title-holders as the match of the tournament.
“It will be a hellish game. The games against Ireland are always tough but this one will be played in a very special environment, in a stadium which is a temple of Gaelic sports where rugby players didn’t have the right to play,” Laporte said.
“Ireland are a quality team, a very complete team. They play good rugby and they will certainly will be eager to beat us because the last four times we played, they lost, and because we’ll face each other in the World Cup pool phase,” he said.
But Laporte was mindful how things could change before September.
“As I said before we faced Argentina last November, every game is played in a different context. Sunday’s winners will not necessarily win in September,” he said.
“Even if Ireland lose their fifth game in a row against us on Sunday, it doesn’t mean they will lose the sixth.”
France – 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 David Marty, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Christophe Dominici, 10 David Skrela, 9 Pierre Mignoni; 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Serge Betsen, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Pieter de Villiers, 2 Raphael Ibanez (c), 1 Sylvain Marconnet. Subs: 16 Sebastien Bruno, 17 Olivier Milloud, 18 Jerome Thion, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Cedric Heymans.