PARIS (Reuters) – France head coach Jacques Brunel named an unchanged team to face Ireland in the Six Nations on Sunday, keeping faith in young halfbacks Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.
Flyhalf Ntamack, 19, and 22-year-old scrumhalf Dupont put on a promising performance in a 27-10 home victory against Scotland in the previous round, and the pair will be put to test again at the Aviva Stadium.
“The context will be different and I hope our pack will put the halfbacks in good conditions,” Brunel told a news conference on Tuesday.
With Ireland expected to rely on Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray’s kicking game to unsettle the French, the 23-year-old Thomas Ramos will again start at fullback.
France, who lost 24-19 to Wales in their opener, paid a heavy price for fielding winger Yoann Huget at fullback and centres on the wings in a 44-8 thrashing by England, when they were bombarded by their rivals’ offensive kicks.
“We work on this every week,” said Brunel. “The Irish know how to put you under pressure with high kicks, notably with Murray, we worked on this specifically.”
Scrumhalf Morgan Parra, who along with flyhalf Camille Lopez had been omitted for the Scotland game after criticising the management, has been ruled out due to injury.
Lopez does not feature in the team, either.
Ireland lost to England at home before beating Scotland and Italy away.
“We will have to make smart choices. They have a very efficient defence and they are very good in the rucks,” said Brunel.
“We need to be more consistent and be able to reproduce what we did against Scotland.”
15-Thomas Ramos, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Gael Fickou, 11-Yoann Huget, 10-Romain Ntamack, 9-Antoine Dupont, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Arthur Iturria, 6-Wenceslas Lauret, 5-Felix Lambey, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Demba Bamba, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1-Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16-Camille Chat, 17-Etienne Falgoux, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Paul Willemse, 20-Gregory Alldritt, 21-Baptiste Serin, 22-Anthony Belleau, 23-Maxime Medard
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)