Shane Jennings: France are going to try and bludgeon Ireland
Leinster star Shane Jennings is expecting a physical onslaught from Les Bleus at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow but fancies Ireland to come through it.
Jennings, who will be live blogging the crucial encounter on Independent.ie, believes Saint-Andre will deploy his massive pack and Mathieu Bastareaud in an attempt to pound Ireland into submission.
“The ability of the French backline and some of their loose forwards like Damien Chouly, if they get their continuity going and get offloads going and get that intensity into their game, then Ireland will have a long afternoon because they are very good at it,” he said
“It’s a big ‘if’ because they haven’t done it for a long time.
“I think their bench is very important, Remi Tales is a very good player, Morgan Parra is a very good player and you have massive guys on the bench for sheer mass.
“It doesn’t lead France to an expansive game, it looks like route one and lets bludgeon Ireland and try to intimidate them physically.
“I hope it’s not and Ireland have the ability to stop them early and then they won’t have a Plan B.”
There has been a lot of talk surrounding the return of Johnny Sexton and how the French plan to target both him and Marty Moore when he is sprung from the bench, according to Philippe Saint-Andre.
“It’s always interesting when a coach comes out with something like that, it’s obviously on his mind,” he added
“So there is a strategy behind it but from Joe’s point of view there isn’t much of an issue.
“I think Marty is able to come on and manage late in the game and with his club he is well able to play against French props so I don’t see it as much of an issue.
“I think the Irish pack is probably down about 19 or 20kg in comparison at the moment so you can’t really focus on one guy and say ‘listen, that was Marty Moore’s fault or that was Jack McGrath’s fault’. It’s the eight guys who are in the scrum and eight guys who have to make sure they are doing their jobs and if they do that there shouldn’t be an issue.”
Jennings believes Ireland will have to deal with a number of threats from Ireland but doubts the danger of the Fofana-Bastareaud partnership.
“There is this perception of this French flair , this ability to run it from everywhere. They have guys like Camille Lopez who is a serious operator, I think Kockett at scrum half is dangerous around the fringes, Teddy Thomas, the winger who plays with Johnny at racing, of he gets space he’s very dangerous,” he continued.
“Wesley Fofana is incredibly attack-minded and he has got that flair with Clermont.
“For whatever reason with France, his combination with Bastareaud, they both don’t seem to be as dangerous together as they are with their clubs, that understanding isn’t there.
“Without pigeon-holing Bastareaud too much, he is very good and very strong at what he does. Trying to stop a guy with that size and that power, maybe you don’t need to have an attacking side that relies on flair and agility. He can punch holes wherever he wants to go.
“They have a lot of dangerous operators and I think getting at Lopez and Kockett, if our back-row can do that and don’t give them time on the ball, I don’t think you’ll see Fofana, Bastareaud and Thomas getting the opportunity to attack.”
Jennings’ prediction for the game: “I think Ireland will win by five points. I’m the eternal optimist.”