Ireland must not get drawn into an open game against France, but instead rely on their strengths, according to Mike Prendergast.

The former Munster scrum-half is now the attack and backs coach with Top 14 side Stade Francais in Paris and has been on the coaching beat in France since 2013.

Prendergast says that France’s best chance of troubling Ireland in Sunday’s Six Nations clash in Dublin is to coax Joe Schmidt’s men into an open game.

Having perfected a successful style for the Grand Slam, series win in Australia and victory over New Zealand in 2018, there is a feeling that Ireland have been figured out and that they must introduce a new game plan.

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That sense was driven by the opening day defeat to England the two subsequent wins over Scotland and Italy that failed to convince.

"It’s on the ball that the French can be dangerous; their open-field stuff is unstructured, so when Ireland kick they need to kick accurately," Prendergast told the RTÉ Rugby podcast.

"They are like Toulouse but Toulouse do it better, obviously not at international level [but] from counters and turnovers. Ireland will be very aware that is where the danger is."

The old adage about not knowing which France is going to turn up is based firmly on the evidence at hand. 

So far they have blown a 16-point lead against Wales, were a complete shambles at Twickenham and made short work of an injury-hit Scotland. 

Prendergast, who also played with Gloucester and Bourgoin, added: "From the French side, you just don’t know. Look at the performance against Wales in the first half, in tricky conditions, I thought they played some good rugby.

"The thing is when they are down and everybody is against them they can become a big animal.

"The word coming out of [the training base at] Marcoussis is that it’s obviously not the happiest camp.

"They haven’t won a lot of games, they’ve asked for the team to be announced earlier.

"You might wonder how come we know the team on a Tuesday – especially when you come up against a tactician like Joe Schmidt

"The players looked for it, they wanted to know the team on a Tuesday."

As for Ireland’s use of players so far in the championship, partly down to injury and partly due to rotation, the 41-year-old says it is a long-term plan.

"I think it will pay dividends," he said.

"We are having a small bit of short-term hurt but overall…we saw in the last World Cup when we lost a couple of players, Paul [O’Connell], Peter [O’Mahony] and Johnny [Sexton] [what the fall-out was].

"He’s using all these players to see what his best 31 looks like. Competitively, it keeps everyone on their toes, performance high.

"Long-term, towards the World Cup it will pay dividends."

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.