By Tadhg Peavoy

France captain Pascal Papé and head coach Philippe Saint-André say they expect the clash with Ireland to be one of their toughest encounters of the Six Nations. 

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Papé said: “Ireland are a very strong team since the start of the 2000s. They’re very hard to play against and extremely competitive.

“They have players of enormous talent like Jamie Heaslip and Donncha O’Callaghan; they have lots of great players.

“Playing in Ireland against Ireland is always a special moment for us French, because it’s a very complicated and tough match to win.”

Head coach Saint-André also insisted that the clash with Ireland would be "very, very tough". "All my friends will come to this game because the French people love to go to Dublin.

“So, I’m sure Temple Bar will be full of French people, and I hope it will be a fantastic game.

“Last year was a draw, so we’ll have to wait and see what the result will be this year."

The France head coach also praised Ireland's form in the November Tests and singled them out as potential championship contenders.

He said: “I think Ireland did very well in the Tests in November. They beat Argentina and played fantastic. There is a lot of flair and speed in the Ireland game.

"I think in this championship, Scotland and Italy on their days can beat anyone, and after that I think Ireland, France, Wales and England can win the competition.

“In this competition, if you don’t respect one team you fail, so we’ll focus on Italy and afterwards we’ll focus on the next step."

Twitter: @TPeavoy