The battle of the half-backs on Sunday will be an intriguing one indeed.

Assuming Joe Schmidt sticks to his tried and trusted pairing of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, in the green corner will stand Grand Slam winners, first-choice Lions and men looking forward to a third World Cup campaign later this year.

In the opposite corner will be two players at the other end of their careers, with French head coach Jacques Brunel giving callow Antoine Dupont and Romain N’Tamack, whose combined age of 41 is just eight years older than Johnny Sexton (33), the opportunity to showcase their undoubted talents.

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The contrast is a stark one. In the opening round of the Six Nations against England, Murray and Sexton started together for Ireland for the 50th occasion, while Dupont and N’Tamack failed to make the matchday squad against Wales.

The pair appeared off the bench for the Twickenham debacle, made their first Six Nations starts against Scotland and now are entrusted with the nine and ten shirts again as Les Bleus seek a first win on Irish soil since 2011.

Sexton and Murray's difficulties this campaign have been well documented. The Irish coaching team insisted it was key for the pair to start against Italy after missing a lot of provincial rugby through injury, while after the game, Schmidt admitted the pair are both upset with their Six Nations form.

Sexton admitted as much himself days later. "You're doing everything right and things aren't just clicking," he said.

There is growing expectation that Dupont and N’Tamack could finally be the answer for France at nine and 10 after years of chopping and changing.

Romain N'Tamack won't turn 20 until the summer

The French scrum-half in particular has been a revelation in his 103 minutes of action, while N’Tamack, who rarely plays out-half at Toulouse, produced a clever and composed performance against the Scots, with his try the cherry on top.

While the form lines have been contrasting, how do the respective pairings match up in numbers?

The first thing to note when delving into the facts and figures is that the French men have much less game time under their belts with which to analyse.

Murray has missed just 15 minutes in three starts, while even allowing for Sexton’s early departure at Murrayfield, he has amassed 182 minutes on the pitch, compared to just 117 for Dupont and 123 minutes for N’Tamack.

The excitement however around the attack-minded Dupont is corroborated by his numbers.

Only Blair Kinghorn, who ran amok against the Italians, has more clean line breaks than the 22-year-old’s tally of seven, while he is leading half-back in the tournament in defenders beaten (11).

Dupont's six off-loads is only bettered by French team-mate Mathieu Bastareaud, and it is noticeable that Sexton is the leading Irish off-loader along with Tadhg Furlong with two.

More than simply a traditional petite générale, the Toulouse man has missed only one tackle – all the more impressive considering he played most of the second half in the Twickenham horror show -  and according to the number crunchers, has made just one bad pass to date.

The Irish game plan is a considered and measured approach that reaped rich dividends in 2018.

It is of little surprise that Conor Murray has kicked 35 times from hand. The box kick continues to be a go-to approach for Ireland, with Eddie Jones somewhat mischievously pre-tournament noting Ireland's reliance on a kicking game.

It is therefore interesting to note that Murray is sandwiched by England's Ben Youngs (49) and Owen Farrell (35) in that statistical category, with the pair occupying first and third position.

Sexton by contrast has kicked on just 11 occasions from hand. The Leinster man, as has widely been discussed, regularly draws in the tacklers before slipping the pass to the second receiver, often to his own detriment.

Murray has always been a scoring threat as well as provider in the green jersey and two of the nine Irish tries so far have come courtesy of the 29-year-old, more than any of his scrum-half peers.

As well as topping the passing charts (307), only Finn Russell (3) has more try assists than Murray.

N’Tamack is set for the biggest challenge of his career in Dublin, but the 19-year-old at least won’t have the added pressure of placed kicks, with Thomas Ramos set to keep hold of the responsibility from the tee.

In a fixture of fine margins – the average winning margin in the last 11 meetings of the teams is less than five points – every kick counts.

Johnny Sexton’s two missed shot at goals to date mean his percentage is 71%, down on his 2018 figure of 78%.

The French have had notable difficulties in front of the posts, with Camile Lopez, Morgan Parra, Baptiste Serin and Ramos all taking kicks in the championship.

Les Bleus have converted just two of their seven tries while Ramos was only successful with two of his four kicks against the Scots.

An improvement would go a long way to building a foundation for victory, though a 79% rate for Toulouse last season would suggest he is capable of much better. The 23-year-old is at 80% in club colours this year.

France’s chopping and changing is perhaps best highlighted by the discarded Lopez.

The 29-year-old began the competition as starting out-half and place kicker but endured a difficult night against Wales in the opening game. Against England, he was relinquished of place-kicking duties and by game three was dropped from the match-day squad.

N'Tamack will hope to change the pattern in the French 10 jersey, but can he, along with Dupont, control the tempo in Dublin? Or will the wily Irish pairing lay down their own marker and travel to Cardiff on the final day with renewed vigour?

We're about to find out.

Follow Ireland v France on Sunday (kick-off 3pm) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the News Now App, or listen live on RTÉ 2fm, with commentary from Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan.