France hit by stomach bug as Kearney targets fast start in Paris
France's preparations for Saturday's Six Nations opener against Ireland have been disrupted by a stomach bug which has hit three players.
Already playing catch-up after replacing Guy Noves last month, coach Jacques Brunel was forced to take training without captain Guilhem Guirado and prop Jefferson Poirot yesterday. They are expected to recover in time for the Stade de France clash.
Scrum-half Baptiste Serin, who was also suffering stomach problems over the weekend, returned to training yesterday along with flanker Wenceslas Lauret. However, centre Geoffrey Doumayrou sat out the session with a thigh problem and out-half Matthieu Jalibert had a scare after colliding with Virimi Vakatawa.
Reports in the French media suggest Stade Rochelais' Doumayrou is in line to start alongside Remi Lamerat in midfield, with Geoffrey Palis expected to get the nod at full-back ahead of Benjamin Fall.
Both Guirado and Poirot are being touted to start in the front-row alongside Rabah Slimani, with Arthur Iturria set to join Sebastien Vahaamahina in the second-row and Yacouba Camara, Sekou Macalou and Kevin Gourdon lining up in the back-row.
Brunel names his team on Thursday, as does Joe Schmidt, who issued a positive injury bulletin yesterday through the IRFU. With Dave Kilcoyne back at Munster rehabilitating, all 36 players are available for selection.
And full-back Rob Kearney is targeting a fast start as Ireland look to learn the lesson of last year's defeat to Scotland on the opening weekend of the campaign.
"Mentally, our whole focus this week will be about the first 20 minutes," he said. "Sometimes you are trying to concentrate on so many things and you'd think it was a given (that) you would get out of the box so quickly and you know you have that one day when you are just off a slight bit and you get punished for it."