France to play in Euro qualifiers
IRELAND could face tournament hosts France in the Euro 2016 qualifiers as a result of a radical UEFA rule change.
France will be the first host nation to take part in a European Championships qualification phase.
However, as hosts, Les Bleus will still automatically qualify for the finals, with their group-stage contests serving as friendlies, with no points awarded.
The regulation shift means France will be added to the group-stage draw, creating nine pools of six teams. Previous competitions have had eight pools of six teams and one comprising five.
France will be added to the five-team group, opening the possibility that Ireland could face both Les Bleus and England in the qualifiers.
UEFA will confirm the six seeding pots today ahead of the pool-stage draw in Nice on February 23.
Ireland should be confirmed as second seeds by virtue of their position in the UEFA co-efficient table, which draws on results from the previous three campaigns – with 40pc from the World Cup 2014 qualifiers, 40pc from the Euro 2012 tilt and 20pc from the attempts to reach the 2010 World Cup.
England should be named among the top seeds, courtesy of their unbeaten record in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.