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France prepare counter-attacking set-up to face Ireland

Published 09/10/2015

Louis Picamoles, pictured, has been restored to France's line-up for their pivotal World Cup battle with Ireland
Louis Picamoles, pictured, has been restored to France's line-up for their pivotal World Cup battle with Ireland

Philippe Saint-Andre has ordered France to go all-out to "unnerve" Ireland and outdo Joe Schmidt's men at their very own high-ball tactics.

France boss Saint-Andre has paired Brice Dulin and Scott Spedding - two full-backs - in his back three and admitted doing so purely to counter Ireland's much-vaunted tactical kicking game.

Sunday's victors will top Pool D and meet Argentina in the last eight, avoiding New Zealand in the process.

"Ireland have a very attacking kicking game and score lots of points off up-and-unders and cross-field kicks," said Saint-Andre.

"So to start with two players who are full-backs is a bid to unnerve the Irish and have options for counter-attacking.

"Brice (Dulin) is a good player, he knows how the France team functions because he has been with us since the outset.

"Ireland put a lot into their offensive kicking.

"So this is to counter that tactic and to create possibilities for ourselves on counter-attacking from those positions."

Saint-Andre insisted Ireland are favourites for Sunday's Millennium Stadium clash, backing half-backs Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Frederic Michalak to boss the game for Les Bleus.

France's players have spent the week winding up the tension through barely-veiled threats on the physical assault that will be coming Johnny Sexton's way in Cardiff.

The inclusion of power wing Noa Nakaitaci and number eight Louis Picamoles only adds to that motorcade of juggernauts, spearheaded by centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

"That pairing works well," said Saint-Andre.

"Fred Michalak is like a red wine, he only gets better with age.

"And importantly, he is, along with Morgan Parra, the only back with (prior) World Cup experience.

"I think all the pressure is on the shoulders of Ireland.

"They are favourites and it would be a huge shame for them if they lost on Sunday. If you want to be world champion, it's good to win your pool matches.

"Sunday's match is against one of the world's leading rugby powers, fifth in the rankings.

"There might be 35 or 40,000 Irish fans in the stadium with a closed roof for what will be a very intense, high-quality game.

"I trust in the 15,000 who will make some noise for us!"

France team to play Ireland: S Spedding; N Nakaitaci, M Bastareaud, W Fofana, B Dulin; F Michalak, S Tillous-Borde; E Ben Arous, G Guirado, R Slimani, P Pape, Y Maestri, T Dusautoir (capt), D Chouly, L Picamoles.

Replacements: B Kayser, V Debaty, N Mas, A Flanquart, B Le Roux, M Parra, R Tales, A Dumoulin.

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