Two down, three to go. Ireland currently occupy second place in the Six Nations table and aside from a turbulent opening 40 minutes in Murrayfield, Joe Schmidt will be relatively pleased with what he has seen.

The Scottish defeat was founded on a horror show of a first-half, but they nearly pulled off an unlikely win, only for handling errors and poor execution letting them down in a 27-22 defeat.

The rout in Rome was just the tonic, and while the management team won’t get carried away with events at the Stadio Olimpico, Schmidt will be heartened that the title bid is back on track.

The next outing, at home to Guy Noves’ France on Saturday week, promises to be an altogether different challenge.

Here is what the stats have shown about both sides from the opening two rounds.

The backrow battle

The Irish backrow has undoubtedly become one of the most competitive areas of selection.

CJ Stander, Seán O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip are in pole position to retain their jerseys for the visit of the French, though Josh van der Flier and Peter O’Mahony might have something to say about that.

Stander’s destructive carrying has become a huge attacking weapon, witnessed by his countless man-of-the-match awards at both provincial and national level, with his Italian hat-trick the latest in an ever-growing list of highlights.

No team has beaten more defenders than Ireland (69), with France (42) their closest challengers, with the Munster flanker contributing 12 to that figure.

However in Louis Picamoles, France possess someone of a similar stature and one of the best carriers in world rugby, never mind the Six Nations.

He has beaten 13 defenders, more than anyone else over the last two weeks, while he is leading the way on metres gained also, rampaging for 201 metres against England and Scotland.

Openside flanker Kevin Gourdon is the side’s top tackler (28), four more than his Irish counterpart Jamie Heaslip, while the La Rochelle flanker is also a danger with ball in hand and leads the way for clean breaks made for the French (3).

It promises to be a battle royale

Signs of French change?

Since winning five Six Nations titles in nine seasons between 2002 and 2010, Les Bleus have struggled badly in recent years, finishing fifth in 2016 despite winning their opening two games.

The appointment of Guy Noves was strong indicator that French rugby authorities wanted to move away from a game based on set-piece and power, and little of the way of creative flair.

They could have won in Twickenham despite the low expectations, and while they were far from polished against Scotland, the home side ground out a win that appeared to be slipping away.

Aside from the resilience shown, there has been glimpses that the decorated coach is putting his own stamp on the side.

They have more offloads (29) than any other side and are only just behind Ireland in terms of metres made, impressive considering they travelled to Twickenham and hosted a vibrant Scottish side.

Their execution has let them down on occasions, but the intent is certainly there and the exclusion of Mathieu Bastareaud was the clearest indicator that Noves wants a different attacking approach.

Old habits die hard

That is not to say that previous failings have all of a sudden been completely eradicated under the new management team.

When it comes to French discipline, there is much work to be done.

Ireland’s ability to keep on the right side of the match officials has been spoken about at length, with the concession of just 11 penalties in the two games against the All Blacks and the win over Australia an illustration of the discipline Schmidt demands from his side.

Not surprisingly, they have the best penalty record after two games (13), which is almost half that of France. Their 25 penalties to date puts them out in front, while they have also lost more rucks (8) than any other side in the competition and this will give Schmidt and company food for thought when it comes to the tactics they will employ at the breakdown.

Rock-bottom Italy have lost just three rucks, better than any other side to date.

Ireland’s attacking verve

Italy made it easy to attack last time out, but there was a swagger and clever back play that was evident throughout.

Indeed after the interval in Murrayfield, Ireland carved up the Scottish defence on a number of occasions and more composure could easily have led to further tries.

No team has more clean breaks (25) than the men in green, with Keith Earls, the scorer of three tries, the leading light with four clean breaks.

Ireland lead the charts on metres gained, while Rob Kearney, who reportedly has injury worries, has carried for 155m from full-back.

Penalty precision

In a game that could be decided by fine margins, there will be big pressure on the respective kickers.

Much focus will centre on whether the returning Johnny Sexton can dislodge Paddy Jackson from the number 10 jersey.

On current form, it would be a tough call to drop the young Ulster man, who is the competition's leading points scorer.

He was 100% accurate from the tee in Rome, with a tournament record nine conversions, and Ireland are yet to miss a penalty kick at the posts.

Camille Lopez has missed a penalty in both games and while he was instrumental in kicking the home side to victory over the Scots, will need to maintain his high percentage if France are to leave Dublin with the win.