Monday 16 September 2019

Jacques Brunel tells his side to expose Ireland's 'weaknesses' as he names unchanged 23

Romain Ntamack touches down for France’s first try against Scotland in Paris. Photo: PA
Romain Ntamack touches down for France’s first try against Scotland in Paris. Photo: PA Newsdesk Newsdesk

Jacques Brunel believes France can exploit "weaknesses" in Ireland's game in Sunday's Guinness Six Nations clash in Dublin.

Les Bleus boss Brunel has named an unchanged 23 to face Ireland, keeping faith with the full match squad from the 27-10 victory over Scotland in Paris.

Brunel resisted the temptation to recall fly-half Camille Lopez, with Toulouse duo Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack continuing in the half-back pairing.

England exploited France's muddled back-three set-up with clinical tactical kicking to route Les Bleus 44-8 at Twickenham on Sunday, February 10 - but Brunel insists his side can cause problems for Joe Schmidt's men this weekend.

"What England offered us was of high quality; we have worked since then but it's hard to predict everything," said Brunel.

"The Irish are going to put pressure on us with their kicking game whether it's Conor Murray or Johnny Sexton.

"We will try to master this characteristic of the Irish game.

"We watched their tournament matches, we saw their ability to hold the ball and inflict long sequences on their opponents.

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"We know what to expect but they were well beaten by the English. There are weaknesses and we will try to pressurise those.

"They beat New Zealand in November and are still the number-two team in the world. But everything is moving quickly - look at Wales, who have almost become invincible.

"Ireland continue to be certain about their game and remain very successful, after losing to England they were able to bounce back against Italy.

"It's very difficult to take them on because their game is very well structured and programmed.

"Their group of players is difficult to counter. We must be effective and not lose energy, and we must make smart decisions."

Toulouse star Dupont has fast emerged as France's premier scrum-half in this tournament, and now Brunel admits Les Bleus are already relying on the in-form 22-year-old.

"I hope that our pack of forwards will put our pivots in the best shape to develop good conditions," said Brunel.

"Antoine Dupont is young, he is growing. He must be manager and hub of the game. He regulates the speed of the team.

"His trump card is the level of his physical conditions - we can count on him."

France (15-9): Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; (8-1) Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Felix Lambey, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Demba Bamba, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Jefferson Poirot

Replacements (16-23): Camille Chat, Etienne Falgoux, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau, Maxime Medard.

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