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Palisson like blast from the past

By Hugh Farrelly

Remember Sebastien Viars?

The Irish players who had the misfortune of running out in Paris in the spring of 1992 will recall that with a shuddering clarity.

Viars destroyed the Irish that day, scoring two tries, five conversions and two penalties for an individual tally of 24 (the try was worth four points then) as France gambolled to a 44-12 victory over the hapless Paddies.

It was a reputation-shredding afternoon. Derek McAleese and Paul Hogan made their debuts that day but would never earn another cap, it was the last cap for centre David Curtis — one of the stars of Ireland's World Cup campaign a few months previously — and others such as Kenny Murphy, Fergus Aherne, Brian Rigney and Mick Fitzgibbon did not feature in the tournament again.

Viars was sensational against Ireland and, 18 years on, his name sprang to mind again when France coach Marc Lievremont announced his team to take on Declan Kidney's side at the Stade de France.

For there are definite similarities with Alexis Palisson — one of two injury-enforced changes to the France team which comfortably accounted for Scotland.

Like Viars, Palisson lines out on the left wing against Ireland, plays full-back and winger for Brive, was first capped as a 20-year-old and is known for his pace and kicking ability.

An ominous correlation and, equally disconcerting for Irish rugby stattos, is the other change to the side which sees Vincent Clerc come onto the right wing with his penchant for punishing green jerseys (seven tries in five matches against the Irish).

France have a seemingly endless production line of quality.

Lievremont loses the services of his first-choice wingers Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Clerc and, arguably, strengthens his back three with Vincent Clerc and Palisson. Replacement prop Luc Ducalcon is ruled out with injury and the French coach calls on scrummaging powerhouse Sylvain Marconnet to sit on the bench.

It's daunting stuff for the Grand Slam champions, who are attempting to win in Paris for only the second time since 1972.

“Playing Vincent Clerc from the start shouldn't cause a debate but there was a lot of discussion on who to play on the left wing,” said Lievremont. “We decided to go with the versatility and left foot of Alexis Palisson. We know the qualities of Julien Malzieu but it seemed interesting to us to have the presence of Alexis alongside Clement Poitrenaud. We went for Palisson because he often plays at full-back with his Brive club and is a fine left-footed field kicker.”

France team: C Poitrenaud; V Clerc,M Bastareaud, Y Jauzion, A Palisson; F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; T Domingo, W Servat, N Mas; L Nallet, P Pape; T Dusautoir (capt), F Ouedraogo, I Harinordoquy.Reps: D Szarzewski, S Marconnet, J Pierre, J Bonnaire, F Michalak, D Marty, J Malzieu.

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