France sure of sell-out but 2,000 Irish fans won't make Paris return
UNDER-FIRE French officials are confident they will be able to sell out the Stade de France for Sunday's rescheduled Six Nations clash with Ireland, despite nearly 9,000 tickets being returned by supporters of both teams.
The IRFU expect around half the estimated 5,000 Irish supporters who travelled to the postponed fixture on February 11 to return this weekend, with nearly 2,000 tickets returned for refund.
However, the French Federation (FFR), who were savaged after the farcical scenes three weekends ago when the match was called off minutes before kick-off, still expect Declan Kidney's charges to face the full onslaught of French fervour on Sunday afternoon.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who has called up Clement Poitrenaud after full-back Maxime Medard was ruled out with knee ligament damage, said a repeat of the "blunders" his players made in the narrow win over Scotland last weekend will be fatal against the Irish.
"I woke up happy with two wins from two games but there are a lot of things we have to improve, that will not do against Ireland," said Saint-Andre. "I was happy to win and happy to come back from 10-0 but there were too many blunders that will not be acceptable against teams of a higher calibre than Italy and Scotland."
Medard, a try-scorer against Scotland, will be a major loss for France, while Ireland were able to report positive news on their injury concerns with Rob Kearney (groin), Sean O'Brien (ankle), Gordon D'Arcy (shoulder) and Cian Healy (jaw) all expected to be available.
Ireland returned to camp in Carton House last night buoyed by Saturday's 42-10 win over Italy, with their Six Nations outlook far rosier than a few weeks ago when they were reeling from an opening defeat to Wales and distracted by the controversial citing and subsequent acquittal of flanker Stephen Ferris.