Joe Schmidt names Stockdale, Ryan and Aki in team to play France

Joe Schmidt names Stockdale, Ryan and Aki in team to play France

Joe Schmidt names Stockdale, Ryan and Aki in team to play France

They must hit the ground running. It helps that they face Ireland at Twickenham, however the curve ball for England, and indeed the tournament, could come from Murrayfield. Many hoped that this would be the Grand Slam decider between the two best teams on paper.

Ian Keatley has been playing some of the best rugby of his career, but Schmidt once again goes with Carbery who's only just recovered from injury. No matter how much you've prepared yourself, even if you've been here before, for any player to step out into that stadium and the noise generated, I wouldn't say it's a shock, but it's a hugely motivating factor.

The pressure on the Irish after losing in Round One was too great, and they succumbed to Wales in Round Four.

What has compounded matters‚ especially for the teams from the Home Unions‚ is the fact that their top players were engaged in a gruelling tour of New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in the middle of a year ago.

Ireland have won only three of 32 games in France in the Five/Six Nations since 1954.

Schmidt explained: "We felt he went really well against Montpellier and we are looking forward to seeing what he will deliver".

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That win saw Ireland claim second spot in the table, albeit level on points with Scotland, who hinted at their resurgence with a 29-0 win over rock-bottom Italy, and France, who took advantage of referee Wayne Barnes' 20 minutes of added time, to defeat Wales 20-18 in Paris, and consign the men in red to fifth spot in the table.

Perhaps more importantly though are the key, established combinations that Schmidt can name.

Ireland otherwise field an experienced side built around the halfback pairing of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray.

Also making their Six Nations debuts will be Ulster Rugby wing Jacob Stockdale and Connacht Rugby centre Bundee Aki. He includes 19 year old Matthieu Jalibert at fly-half, who has been in fine form in the Top 14 as reported by Last Word on Rugby back in November. Ireland recorded a 19-9 home win when the sides met last season, but France claimed a narrow 10-9 victory when the nations last faced each other here in 2016.

Follow our live blog of France v Ireland (4.45pm kick-off) on RTÉ Online and the RTÉ News Now App, or listen to commentary from Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.

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