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Powerhouse Louis Picamoles adds weight to the attack

By Jonathan Bradley

France have restored both Louis Picamoles and Noa Nakaitaci to their starting XV to face Ireland tomorrow after Philippe Saint-Andre unveiled his panel yesterday morning.

It is a strong statement of intent from the French coach with both men capable of adding considerable ballast to the French attack for a contest that will decide who tops Pool D heading into the quarter-finals.

The winners of the Millennium Stadium showdown will gain a favourable last eight draw, facing Argentina rather than a daunting meeting with New Zealand, while also benefiting from an extra day of rest before the first round of knock-out games.

French Number 8 Picamoles was given the evening off when Les Bleus faced Canada in their last game ten days ago but has been in stellar form both in the warm-up Tests and the tournament to date.

Ireland's forwards coach Simon Easterby has marked the Toulouse powerhouse as a real threat to Irish ambitions.

"Picamoles has always been dangerous as a ball carrier," said the one-time back-rower.

"He has the ability to knock players off if you go too high, and he also has ability to offload pretty well.

"It obviously helps when you have someone like (former France flanker) Imanol Harinordoquy playing alongside you at your club, as Picamoles has.

"His experience for the French and Biarritz is exceptional. And I am sure his work rubs off on Picamoles.

"He along with a number of players in their pack have the ability to carry and offload.

"We have to trust what we do without the ball and make sure that we are on top of our game when we are defending."

Fijian-born Nakaitaci had been widely tipped to lose out to Remy Grosso on the wing but is also back in the fold and the physical Clermont man will be expected to add another option should France choose to batter their way across the gainline.

As expected, the remainder of the back-three is made up of two specialised full-backs, Scott Spedding at 15 with Brice Dulin on the wing.

With Mathieu Bastareaud also in situ in his familiar number 13 jersey there wil be plenty of muscle in Saint-Andre's backline against the Irish.

Having not beaten Ireland during his four years in charge, and now facing his last opportunity, the former winger's pack was largely as expected.

Cian Healy and Mike Ross will know they have to be on top form come scrum time, going head-to-head with Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous respectively, while Devin Toner's recall hints at concern over what locks Pascal Pape and Yoann Maestri are capable of come lineout time.

The one unexpected selection in the back-row sees Damien Chouly preferred to Johnny Sexton's former Racing Metro teammate Bernard Le Roux in the openside flanker berth.

Belfast Telegraph


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