France and Ireland have announced their matchday squads for their second round Guinness Six Nations fixture in Paris on Saturday night.
Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the two matchday squads and thinks it is a blessing in disguise that Johnny Sexton is not featuring for the visitors.
Sexton misses out as Carbery looks to impress at ten for Ireland
The marquee headline from the Ireland selection was the announcement that Ireland captain and talisman Johnny Sexton would miss the Parisian trip due to a hamstring injury sustained during training this week.
It is a blow for Ireland given how Sexton orchestrates and game manages the side. The Ireland captain was at his imperious best in the 29-7 triumph over Wales. His attacking lines and passing execution caused Wales no end of defensive headaches.
The absence means that Andy Farrell and Ireland management must now provide an opportunity for the successor to the Sexton throne. Step forward Joey Carbery to make an impression. Carbery’s cameo against Wales was his comeback fixture after yet another frustrating injury layoff.
Carbery has shown as late as last November that the Munster Rugby half-back is more than capable of controlling and executing an Ireland game plan. His contributions last November were excellent but given his lack of game minutes, Paris on Saturday night will be a true acid test.
However, it is an acid test that Ireland management need to see with RWC 2023 on the horizon. Given Sexton’s age and reaching the twilight of an illustrious career, now is the time for Ireland to identify the guy to replace Sexton in the half back position. It is a welcome selection headache to see who will succeed or fail the test.
Jack Carty is summoned to the bench. You would expect the Connacht Rugby player to get game minutes this weekend. His form for province has been strong and will relish an opportunity if that arises. The Byrnes brothers, Mike Lowry, Billy Burns, Jack Crowley and Ben Healy will be watching with interest on Saturday to see the performance of the two ten’s for Ireland.
Ireland reshuffles the bench
The other news for Ireland is a reshuffle in the subs bench. Carty was a predictable selection given the injury to Sexton.
The players who featured against Wales did not put a foot wrong, but Ireland management have called in some heavy artillery to make the impact in the second half of this key fixture.
Ryan Baird and James Hume are the unlucky players to miss out as Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw return to the matchday squad.
If fully fit, they will provide an immense contribution but both players have had precious game time since November so there is a concern.
France rejigs their back row and three quarters
France have played with their words ahead of this test match. Ireland do not offer any new; but we respect a fourth ranked side of the world has been the mantra. Fabien Galthie back from Covid-19 has made alterations to fight Ireland in the back row battle.
Ireland have laid down the marker with their performance against Wales. Doris, van der Flier and Conan have continued to impress on both sides of the ball and the quick ruck ball provided to Jamison Gibson-Park is indicative of the impact this back row unit have had on recent test matches.
Francois Cros returns to the back row which lit up the November test series win over New Zealand and is reunited with Anthony Jelonch and Gregory Alldritt who is a huge pack player for France with his work rate, ball carries and leadership. Expect fireworks in this unit battle on Saturday!
The three quarters is revamped with Yoram Moefana (Bordeaux) called into the starting line-up and the ever consistently reliable Gael Fickou providing physicality and directness in ball carrying. Jonathan Danty who impressed last weekend against Italy is unavailable due to injury.
Galthie has gone for a 6-2 split in the subs bench. Thibaud Flament and Dylan Cretin are named on the bench. The pack impact emphasis is huge here. This will be won in the pack trenches!
France now enters this test match as warm favourites. Ireland will need to allow Joey Carbery the opportunity to settle into the contest, but France I expect will look to start fast in their pack. Composure will be key for both sides in this contest.
The media build-up has suggested that this is a championship defining tournament fixture (a bit disrespectful for Scotland). Cool heads will be required and early discipline issues on the pitch could have a massive bearing on this fixture.
France is a tough place to go, expect nothing less on Saturday night. Ireland needs to focus on a performance and look to press home late to secure a win. Roll on Saturday night!
Keenan; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Hansen; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong; Beirne, Ryan (c); Doris, van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Bealham, Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Carty, Henshaw.
Team: Jaminet, Penaud, Fickou, Moefana, Villiere, Ntamack, Dupont (capt.), Alldritt, Cros, Jelonch, Willemse, Woki, Atonio, Marchand, Baille.
Replacements: Mauvaka, Gros, Bamba, Taofifenua, Flament, Cretin, Lucu, Ramos.