Sunday 18 February 2018

Ireland versus France: Combined Dream XV

Only five French players make the XV
Only five French players make the XV

Damien Dunne and Michael Verney

Ireland and France collide in the most anticipated game of the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow.

We've assessed the two sides and selects a combined Dream XV based on the starting teams named by respective coaches Phillipe Saint-André and Joe Schmidt.

15. Rob Kearney (Ireland)

The experience of the Lions full-back at international level is incomparable to his opposite number Scott Spedding. His tactical kicking, calmness under the high ball and ability to break from defence make the Leinster man one of the world’s best.

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Ireland's fullback Rob Kearney is tackled by Italy's wing Luke McLean (L) during the Six Nations International Rugby Union match between Italy and Ireland at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on February 7, 2015

14.Tommy Bowe (Ireland)

Bowe’s ability to touch down in crucial games is a special talent and the Ulster man will hope to make a huge impact against France having missed last year’s clash through injury. The explosiveness of the winger marks him as one of the most dangerous attacking threats in the game.

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Luke McLean of Italy and Tommy Bowe of Ireland compete for the high ball during the RBS Six Nations match between Italy and Ireland

13.Mathieu Bastareaud (France)

Joe Schmidt claims it takes at least three men to stop the barrelling Toulon centre and at 120kg it is easy to see why. His power and dynamism make him a one man wrecking machine for the French and despite Jared Payne’s rise through the ranks Bastereaud gets the nod.

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Mathieu Bastareaud will spearhead the French challenge against Ireland, again keeping a close eye on Johnny Sexton

12. Wesley Fofana (France)

Robbie Henshaw looks to be growing into the shoes of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy nicely but France’s Fofana is a lethal attacking weapon. The 27-year-old has electrifying pace and his attacking nous is the perfect foil to the power of Bastereaud.

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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

11. Simon Zebo (Ireland)

A unique call to be made here as Zebo, with his French roots, holds off young counterpart Teddy Thomas. The Racing Metro winger is an exciting talent but the flair and creativity of Zebo, typified by his flick against Wales in 2013, edges the vote.

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Ireland's Simon Zebo

10. Johnny Sexton (Ireland)

Despite the concerns around Sexton’s match fitness coming off a 12 month layoff from concussion, it is impossible to leave the Dubliner out. The Irish out-half has developed into the best fly-half in the world in recent years and is selected ahead of Camille Lopez’s elegant style of play.

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13 February 2015; Ireland's Jonathan Sexton stretches before training during the captain's run. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

9. Conor Murray (Ireland)

Murray’s ascension to the top of world rugby has happened in record time as the Munster scrum-half continues to show a streak of brilliance rarely witnessed. The talented number nine easily sees off France’s Rory Kockott.

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Conor Murray goes over for Ireland's first try in the win over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico

1. Rabah Slimani (France)

A tale of two 25-year-olds. Stade Francais versus Leinster. McGrath against Slimani. With first-choice prop Cian Healy waiting in the wings, McGrath holds onto his jersey but faces a tough task to retain it. Slimani on the other hand is the clear French number one and gets the marginal call.

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France's prop Rabah Slimani (C) is tackled by Scotland's flanker Rob Harley (R) and Scotland's hooker Ross Ford (R) during the Six Nations international rugby union match between France and Scotland on February 7, 2015 at the Stade de France, north of Paris. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINAMIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

2. Rory Best (Ireland)

Such is the esteem that Best is held in by coach Schmidt that he made allowances to include his hooker despite not training Tuesday after a concussion against Scotland. Competitive at the breakdown and with ultra-consistent throwing, the Ulster man powers into the side.

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Rory Best is among the unprecedented core of natural leaders in the Ireland team

3. Mike Ross (Ireland)

The 35 year-old continues to shine on the international scene despite his growing years. The Leinster stalwart rarely disappoints and on the back of another good performance against Italy last week, Ross edges Rabah Slimani.

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Mike Ross, Ireland

4. Pascal Pape (France)

The Toulouse lock has been on the international scene since 2004 and like a fine French wine he seems to get better with age. Devin Toner is slowly garnering respect among the Irish public but the 6ft 5in monster Pape earns his spot on merit.

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France's Pascal Pape (C) attempts to run past Scotland's Alasdair Dickinson and Richie Gray (R) during their Six Nations rugby union match at the Stade de France

5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)

No contest, O’Connell is Ireland’s heartbeat. The captain always leads by example and provides inspiration for his team mates. His experience is unrivalled and the Limerick man is a true Irish warrior. Yoann Maestri unlucky to run into a man mountain.

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Paul O'Connell

6. Thierry Dusatoir (France)

Peter O’Mahony is fast becoming the new leader of the next generation of Irish rugby but French captain Dusatoir is an O’Connell-esque figure for his side. The former world player of the year always leads from the front. Imagine having him and the Irish skipper in the one side.

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French captain Thierry Dusatoir

7. Sean O’Brien (Ireland)

The Leinster flanker makes his much-awaited return to the team for the crunch tie. When fit, there is no argument that the Tullow Tank is up there with the best in the world. Incredibly strong, agile and with a bruising tackle he sees off Bernard Le Roux.

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Sean O'Brien makes his way to the bench to sit out the game

8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)

Heaslip makes his return tomorrow after a minor shoulder knock and the number 8 is hard to oppose in the back row. The Leinster captain is a formidable ball-carrier, strong in the tackle and effective at cutting down opponents.

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Jamie Heaslip looks on during Ireland's training at Carton House yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

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