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Sunday looks set to be a wet and very windy day with spells of heavy rain and gale force southerly winds.

Mild despite the inclement weather with highs of 10 to 13 degrees. Rain clearing northeastwards by evening with scattered outbreaks of rain returning for the overnight period. Lowest temperatures of 6 to 9 degrees in fresh southerly winds.

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Aside from pride and resurrecting hopes of rejoining the championship title conversation, this Irish squad will also be hoping to avoid the unwelcome statistic of becoming the first to lose the opening two games of a Six Nations campaign for the first time since the tournament's expansion in 2000.

Given England's surprise loss at home to Scotland the day before, last Sunday's game in Cardiff against a Wales team at a low ebb saw opportunity knock.

Unfortunately, Andy Farrell's side were unable to grasp the mantle between disciplinary issues and glaring errors, leaving an early 'do or die' game against one of the two pre-tournament favourites.

Robbie Henshaw consoles Billy Burns in Cardiff

The task is made much harder with injuries ruling out Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and James Ryan as well as Peter O'Mahony's suspension, while Tadhg Furlong is not yet deemed ready to start.

Meanwhile, the pressure will be on Billy Burns to bounce back immediately after his horribly miscued kick at the very end of the Wales match, as well as concerns raised about James Lowe's defence as pointed out by Ronan O'Gara during the week when he put the microscope on his role in the tries conceded at the Principality Stadium.

There were some encouraging signs in Cardiff however, like the way Ireland rallied and took control of the game for a spell after O'Mahony's red card, with a narrow five-point defeat - despite being a man down for over an hour - providing mild solace for Farrell and co.


Of course cliche dictates that games are won on the day and history counts for little. That being said, France have found the Aviva Stadium an increasingly tough nut to crack in recent visits to Dublin.

But that run of three defeats from their last three trips came at a time when they had yet to emerge from a 10-year period of decline and the mood music around this current French outfit is altogether more upbeat.

The proverbial phoenix is rising from the flames though which is why they will be favourites for Sunday and for the Guinness Six Nations as a whole.

It has been underpinned by a wave of young talent, some of whom were involved as France won the last two Under-20 World Championships.

As former France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre told RTÉ's Game On this week, the resurgence has been spurred by a greater emphasis on domestic talent in the Top 14 and greater regard for the national team.

Matthieu Jalibert is at 10 in Romain Ntamack's absence

"The structure and organisation of French rugby changed completely over the last five years," he explained.

"Since the last three or four years, each club in the Top 14 needs to pick 16 French (eligible) players in the squad each week."

And as Donal Lenihan and Bernard Jackman pointed out on the RTÉ Rugby podcast, they are thriving where some Irish youngsters at provincial level are finding the pathways more constricted after emerging from the academies into the first-team picture.

The youthful half-back partnership of scrum-half Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack has received the most attention during Les Bleus' revolution and they both showed their best attributes when they helped dismantle Ireland in last October's delayed Six Nations fixture, both scoring exquisite tries.

Because of injury, Ntamack will not be available in Dublin but between Dupont and the other members of the French new wave, there is plenty for Ireland to worry about.


Ireland XV: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander. 

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour. 

France XV: Brice Dulin, Damian Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Boutier, Teddy Thomas. 


Andy Farrell (Ireland head coach): "We've obviously lost a few experienced players during the week but one man’s loss is another man’s opportunity. The squad is united in the challenge ahead." 

Philippe Saint-Andre (ex-France head coach): "You had O'Driscoll a few years ago with Ireland, he was so great and all the players around him looked amazing. I think Antoine Dupont is exactly the same specimen."

Follow Ireland v France (kick-off 3pm) on Sunday via our live blog on and the RTÉ News app or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport. Highlights on Against the Head, Monday at 8pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.