Ireland v France: Youthful visitors worth covering on the handicap
It's a crucial game for Ireland, but Kieran O'Connor believes this error-prone side will have their work cut out winning by a sizeable margin over a France side that has turned to youth...
"The adage that you don't become a bad team overnight is true but until we see a 2018 style performance from Ireland we must take them on current form and right now they do not look like a team that will beat France by more than 13 points."
Ireland v France
Live on TV3 & BBC
Win over Italians came with huge concerns
Ireland take on France this Sunday in what is beginning to look like a game that they must win and win well.
To say that this campaign has been a bit misfiring for Ireland would be an understatement. A shock defeat by England was followed up by what looked like a back-on-track performance against Scotland, but the showing against Italy has raised a lot of alarms. Simply put, Ireland were very poor and while four tries scored and a bonus point away win looks good on paper it was a horror show in attack and defence.
The stats make for grim reading, 16 tackles missed, 17 turnovers against them, 10 handing errors, four lineouts lost. Whatever you want to call it, a malaise, a hangover, a slump. This side has not been the same in 2019 as they were in 2018 and with the World Cup looming they need to snap out of it.
The Italian performance will have rocked the camp to the core. So sloppy at the back, set pieces falling apart. Ireland's attack is built off set pieces. If this falls away, then Ireland are in trouble.
Huge game for Stander
Mistakes breath mistakes in rugby so it comes as no surprise to me that Joe Schmidt has named his strongest team possible for the visit of France with CJ Stander and Garry Ringrose returning to the side.
This is a huge game for Stander. Ireland currently look like a team unable to get over the gain line, time and time again they failed to do that and they may soon have to make a call at the number eight jersey. Tellingly they have had the most possession of any team in the competition but the forward play is severely lacking.
France on the handicap looks worth chancing
The great question about France is always which French side will turn up? This always seems a bit of a strange one for me, because for about eight years the French side that has mostly come to Dublin has been poor. The debate over the French Pro 14 set up can go on and on but anyone who thinks what they are doing now is helping their game is deluded. French rugby is in crisis and will be for a while.
At least for now the French are playing people in the position they should be having started out this tournament with two laughable performances against Wales and England. They also have turned to youth making the first 20 minutes of this game crucial. If Ireland start strong and get up into a 10-point lead then this young French side could collapse. If Ireland let them stay in it then we could be going all the way to the wire on this one.
For that reason alone, it makes the -/+13 handicap probably a bit too big, England may have hammered this French side but right now, Ireland do not look like a team that can do that.
The adage that you don't become a bad team overnight is true but until we see a 2018 style performance from Ireland we must take them on current form and right now they do not look like a team that will beat France by more than 13 points. Your only as good as your last performance & last time out Ireland were awful.