Round two of the 2023 Six Nations is upon us after an intriguing opening weekend. Ireland avoided any fears of an ambush in Cardiff and dispatched an ageing Welsh side with relative ease. An almost flawless first half, in which a 24-point lead was established, demonstrated the ruthless efficiency of Andy Farrell’s side.
A comfortable display against a Wales team very much in transition was to be expected, however, France travelling to Dublin as reigning Grand slam champions, and as the last team to have beaten Ireland in the Aviva, there are fewer tests of this magnitude in the game.
There will be some comfort taken in the fact that last week Italy came within 5 points of breaking France’s 14-game win-streak in Rome and in the 18 penalties conceded by France who struggled to cope with the ruck speed of the Italians. It will be fascinating to see if France attacks the breakdown, a tactic which has proved fruitful against Ireland and Leinster in the past.
Ireland will also be aware of their own inaccuracies after conceding 13 penalties in Cardiff. A similar number this weekend will not go unpunished with Thomas Ramos an extremely reliable place kicker who can kick from anywhere inside the Irish half.
Six Nations: What to expect from Ireland vs France?
It is expected that we will see a pragmatic affair dominated by kicking. Fabien Galthié’s team will look to invite Ireland into a kicking battle, and any errors from the Irish back three will be duly punished. Hugo Keenan will have to match his performance from last week to negate any opportunities for France’s counter- attacking game to flourish.
If Ireland can solidify their set piece and put pressure on the French back three with accurate kicking it could provide the multi-phase attack with enough of a platform to test the French defence.
In what is arguably the most anticipated game before the World Cup in France kicks off in September, a loss for either team would not signify disaster, however, it may just plant a seed of doubt that could prove crucial in seven months’ time.
England will have a chance to rectify last week’s agonising defeat to Scotland in the Calcutta Cup when Italy travel to Twickenham on Sunday. Steve Borthwick, who is just two months in the job and still finalising his coaching setup, will be more concerned with the long-term progression of his squad than immediate results. But another Six Nations loss this weekend would put unwanted attention on a young coach and squad currently in the midst of a rebuild, with Ireland and France still on the horizon.
Scotland host Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday where the question will be can this Scottish side show some consistency and back up an excellent performance last weekend? Wales need a big response to last week’s drubbing and Warren Gatland has rewarded club form by selecting a youthful back row of Tommy Reffell, Jac Morgan, and Chris Tshiunza.
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