Before the Six Nations started, Ireland's clash against France was expected to be a potential championship decider.
However, the clash at the Aviva Stadium is now more of a wooden-spoon decider, with les Bleus yet to secure a point, while Declan Kidney's side are hoping to end a two-game losing run.
Philippe Saint-Andre's side are slight favourites to win despite their on-going woes, having won on their last visit to Dublin in 2011.
Ireland strengths/France weaknesses
The home side's strength should lie in their midfield, which impressed at Murrayfield, despite a 12-8 loss to Scotland. Indeed, if Kidney's men had been more clinical, they could be sitting on a more comfortable four points and would not be underdogs for this clash. Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson has been given a vote of confidence and starts against les Bleus despite a mixed debut against Scotland. While his kicking was awry, the 21-year-old showed superb link-up play with Ulster team-mate Luke Marshall, creating three try-scoring opportunities. Alternatively, Saint-Andre has reinstated Frederic Michilak at No10 in his side despite an awful second-half cameo against England. His introduction saw France momentum ebb away as the Red Rose went on to secure a 10-point victory. With questions remaining over the Morgan Parra-Michilak partnership, Ireland will be looking to make the most of a blossoming understand between Jackson and Colin Murray. Should Jackson struggle with his kicking (he kicked seven of eight penalties in Ulster's draw at the weekend with Zebre), Fergus McFadden will be available to take over.
France strengths/Ireland weaknesses
Wesley Fofana is undoubtedly France's danger man - in the positive sense at least - as highlighted by his stunning long-range try against the Red Rose on his last outing in Twickenham. Saint-Andre saw sense and returned Fofana to his preferred centre position after a stint on the wing. Opposing the Clermont Auvergne winger will be Luke Marshall, who, despite a relatively impressive debut, is remain untested at this level. France certain look to hammer home their advantage on the wings with Maxime Medard and Vincent Clerc expected to get the better of Keith Earls and Fergus McFadden. Clerc has scored an impressive eight tries in ten Tests against Ireland, and with McFadden being played out of position, expect France's third most-capped wing to have some joy. The French pack impressed in the opening 50 minutes against the Red Rose at Twickenham, and Ireland will hope Cian Healy's return will give their scrum a boost.
It's a tale of two head coaches under increasing pressure at the Aviva as Kidney and Saint-Andre come face-to-face. Kidney's selection has been questioned at times this championship, particularly his fly-half choices and continued reliance on Keith Earls. Saint-Andre has rivalled his Irish adversary in terms of bizarre selection, introducing Michilak for Morgan Parra at Twickenham. With both head coaches fighting for their respective futures, Kidney and Saint-Andre make for interesting subplots to the action on Saturday.
France have not gone seven games without a victory since 1927 and les Bleus will be desperate to avoid equalling that feat in Dublin on Saturday. France are unbeaten in their last five matches against Ireland and should edge this clash. France to win by less than seven points.
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- Declan Kidney