Thursday 18 January 2018

Five French stars who could leave Ireland's Six Nations title hopes in tatters

France are always dangerous opponents
France are always dangerous opponents

Cormac Byrne and Damien Dunne

Ireland's RBS Six Nations defence faces a massive test against Les Bleus on Saturday but which players should Joe Schmidt and his backroom team be paying particular attention to?

1) Yoann Huget

Born: June 2,1987 (aged 27) Pamiers,France

Height: 190cm (6ft 3in)

Weight: 97kg (15st 4lb)

Position: Wing/fullback

Club: Stade Toulosain (Toulouse)

French caps: 34

Showed glimpses of his blistering pace against the Scots and is a clinical finisher.

He hits another gear once he crosses into the opposition 22, has good positional sense in defence and is very good in the air. A real threat.

huget.jpg
France's right wing Yoann Huget grimaces during an indoor training session on February 10, 2015 in Marcoussis, south of Paris, as part of the preparation of the Six Nations rugby tournament. France will play Ireland in their 2015 Six nations' rugby match in Dublin on February 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

2) Uini Atonio

Born: 26 March 1990 (aged 24) Timaru, New Zealand

Height: 197cm (6ft 5.5 in)

Weight: 155kg (24st 6lb)

Club: La Rochelle

Position:  Tighthead prop

French caps: 3

The French front row was creaking until Atonio's introduction against Italy.

Very few Irish fans will have seen the New Zealand-born prop in action but Mike Ross has already warned that he can be a potent weapon for the French at the Avvia.

Ross described him as an "absolute monster" following his performance at the Stade.

atonio.jpg
France's Uini Atonio (C) catches the ball against Scotland's Blair Cowan (L) and Dougie Fife (R) during their Six Nations rugby union match at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, near Paris, February 7, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT RUGBY)

3) Teddy Thomas

Born: 18 Sep 1993 (age 21) Biarritz, France

Height: 185cm (6ft 1in)

Weight: 90kg (14st 2lb)

Club: Racing metro

Position: Wing/Fullback

French caps: 3

Johnny Sexton will be telling his Ireland team mates all about his club mate from Racing but will also be hoping to exploit his poor positioning when Ireland are in possession.

He's a strong runner and has added subtlety to the French back three with his brilliant off-load game.

Thomas.jpg
Teddy Thomas has been selected ahead of Hogo Bonneval om the wing. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

4) Wesley Fofana

Born:20 January 1988 (age 27)

Height:182cm (5ft 11.5in)

Weight:90kg

Club: ASM Clermont Auvergne

Position: Centre wing

French caps: 31

His centre partnership with the human wreckingball Mathieu Bastaraeud may look fearsome on paper but has failed to cause the problems that it should for opposition.

Fofana can be devastating in open play and steps well off both feet.

The Clermont centre could pose huge problems for Robbie Henshaw on Saturday but will need quicker ball from Camille Lopez to do so.

fra11.jpg
France's Wesley Fofana (C) attempts to evade the tackle of Scotland's Dougie Fife (L) and Blair Cowan (R) during their Six Nations rugby union match at the Stade de France

5) Thierry Dusatoir

Born: 18 November 1981 (age 33)

Height: 188cm (6ft 2in)

Weight: 100kg (220lb, 15 st 10lb)

Club: Toulouse

Position: Flanker

French caps: 70

The French captain is a leader of men. His tackle count is rarely surpassed among his French team mates.

This may be because he has to compensate for laboured runners in the French tight five.

Ireland will attack around the fringes quite a bit at the weekend and hopefully won't be stymied by Dusatoir.

Thierry.jpg
France's flanker Thierry Dusautoir applauds as he leaves the pitch after the Six Nations international rugby union match between France and Scotland, at the Stade de France, northern Paris on February 7, 2015. France won 15-8. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

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