Bernard Jackman is wary of a ‘dangerous’ French team facing Ireland this weekend, while backing Joe Schmidt’s decision to choose Johnny Sexton ahead of the in-form Paddy Jackson.

Ireland face France at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (KO 4.50pm) in their first home match of this year’s Six Nations Championship, buoyed by the mauling of Italy in Rome which re-ignited their Championship hopes following the opening-weekend defeat to Scotland.

France, meanwhile, also lost their opening game away, to England, before struggling to a 22-16 victory over Scotland in Paris last time out and lie fourth in the standings.

“I’m a big believer that Johnny is critical to this Irish team and when he’s fit he starts"

But Jackman believes a buoyant France will arrive in Dublin and with nothing to lose will pose a very serious threat to Ireland, who lie in second place behind England in the table.

The head coach at Grenoble told RTÉ Sport: “The worry is that they’re coming into this game in a really good mental state – very, very happy with the win against Scotland.

“They were under big pressure to win, and even though they seemed to choke a little bit in the last 20 minutes they got the win.

“They’ve been down in Nice on a warm weather training camp.

“Not many injuries - for the first time under Guy Noves’ watch he’s picked the same 9/10 combination (Baptiste Serin and Camille Lopez) and this is their third start in a row and they’re going to start building now and become what Murray and Sexton are to us.

“So they are a really dangerous opponents and they’re without pressure.

“They know they’re going to finish with a trip to Italy, which they’ll win, and a home game against Wales, which they’ll believe they can win – so really they’ve nothing to lose this weekend and that is a dangerous place for a French team to be.”

Jackman also believes Joe Schmidt was right to replace Jackson with Sexton at out-half – despite the Ulster man performing well to date in the championship.

The former Irish hooker said: “I’m a big believer that Johnny is critical to this Irish team and when he’s fit he starts.

“But I think it’s great that Paddy has shown that he’s not that far behind and that Joe, if things aren’t going that well, can launch him off the bench or start him again if Johnny gets another knock.”

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Watch Scotland v Wales and Ireland v France live on RTÉ2 from 2pm Saturday, listen live on Radio 1 Saturday Sport and follow our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online.

Watch Ireland U20 v France U20 live on RTÉ2 from 8pm Friday. Watch Ireland Women v France Women live on RTÉ2 from 12.30pm Sunday and listen live on LW252 and Radio 1 Extra. Follow live blogs on RTÉ Sport Online.