Saturday 18 November 2017

Bowe added to squad for title decider as French recall star man Picamoles

Ireland's Tommy Bowe
Ireland's Tommy Bowe
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

TOMMY BOWE has been added to Ireland squad ahead of Saturday's Six Nations title decider in Paris as Joe Schmidt considers whether to stick with his winning team.

The Lions winger trained with the squad on Thursday after making a try-scoring return to action for Ulster the previous Friday as he continues his recovery from the groin injury he suffered in the defeat to New Zealand in November.

It remains to be seen whether the 30-year-old will be able to force his way past Andrew Trimble and into the team after his provincial team-mate's scoring display against Italy on Saturday.

The coach maintains that he and his staff are keeping an "open mind" on selection, but they have kept changes to a minimum to date and after yet another strong performance will find it hard to make any changes, other than recalling Peter O'Mahony.

Schmidt reported a clean bill of health for his squad after the game, even though Cian Healy left the stadium wearing a protective boot on the foot injury that forced him off after his second-half try.

Conor Murray should be fit to play despite leaving the field after just 17 minutes having felt nauseous, but Eoin Reddan made a strong case to start with his brilliant performance as a replacement, while Jonathan Sexton came through okay despite his thumb problem. "Tommy will potentially train with us Monday, Tuesday and he'd come into the equation just as every man in the 34-man squad," Schmidt said.

"We look at training as well as games... I think the players are conscious that selections are based on training and on performance during games, and one thing I would say is that the guys who are performing in games are training very, very hard.

"They are not trying to leave any door open at all and if that continues, then they've got the jersey at the moment.

"I would have to say that the three coaches particularly are very open-minded regarding selection. We get together on a Tuesday after the first two days of training and make some decisions that we announce on the Thursday prior to training.

"Sometimes we turn up on the Thursday and make a few changes because we've had a think about it and we've looked back at a bit of (training) footage. There's some incredibly narrow decisions that we make.

"I know every week there are questions on who should have been selected or whatever, how we should play or shouldn't play, and there is no one working harder than the coaches to determine what fits best in a given week."

France, who were poor again in beating Scotland on Saturday, have recalled Louis Picamoles to their squad after he was dropped for disciplinary reasons.

Racing Metro pair Dimitri Szarzewski and Bernard Le Roux have also been added to the squad, but there is no place for Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra.

Ireland lead the table from England and France on points difference ahead of the final weekend. Schmidt's side have a 49-point cushion over the Triple Crown-winning English side, with the French a further 29 points back.

"It's nice to be going into the game with a shot at winning something," captain Paul O'Connell said.

"It's probably the last fixture you'd want to have, it will be incredibly tough, but Eoin Reddan said after the game that there are a lot of guys in this room who haven't won anything with Ireland.

"There's a small few of us with Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam, but to put ourselves in this position is brilliant. It will be incredibly tough, physical and a really tight game.

"But to go to Paris with a chance of winning something is fantastic," he added.

France squad to face Ireland – Forwards (17): V Debaty, T Domingo, G Guirado, B Mach, D Szarzewski, N Mas, R Slimani, A Flanquart, Y Maestri, P Pape, S Vahaamahina, V Bruni, A Lapandry, W Lauret, B Le Roux, D Chouly, L Picamoles. Backs (13): JM Doussain, M Machenaud, J Plisson, R Tales, M Bastareaud, G Fickou, R Lamerat, M Mermoz, Y Huget, M Andreu, M Medard, H Bonneval, B Dulin.

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