A romantic ending in Paris?
Two teams vying for Six Nations glory after finishing last (France) and second last (Ireland) in 2013. What a difference a year makes? Certainly for Ireland, who look a side transformed under new coach Joe Schmidt, but France remain far from convincing.
The only notable difference for France this year is that they are now somehow managing to eke out important, narrow wins (see England Round 1 and Scotland Rd 4) while still not playing particularly well. As belief grows this could spell danger for Ireland.
A home win would see France overhaul Ireland at the top of the table but not necessarily see the hosts crowned champions. So it is a party-pooper role more than anything for Les Bleus as victory would most likely see England take the title on superior points difference. Is that motivation enough?
Ireland will certainly not lack for motivation. While last week was all about Brian O’Driscoll’s final home international, this week is all about finishing the job in what is his last game for Ireland.
It would be a fitting backdrop to bookend the career of Ireland’s greatest player, having first announced himself to the wider world with a stunning hat-trick in Paris in 2000. Amazingly that win at the turn of the millennium remains Ireland’s only win in the city of romance in 42 years.
For all O’Driscoll’s Six Nations records (most appearances and tries) he only has a solitary championship title to his name in this his 14th campaign. It would be a tragedy if he were to finish his international career on Saturday without adding to that tally.
There has been literally nothing to separate the teams since 2011 and they could equal the Test record of three successive draws shared by France and England between 1959-61.
France have resembled a rag-tag pub team at times but therein also lies their strength: if they forget about tactics and play their natural rugby they can be devastating. They certainly possess enough individual brilliance to trouble any side.
This really could go either way. For the romantics out there, back O’Driscoll to finish his career with the perfect Paris date. Ireland to squeak it in the France V Ireland handicap betting would be our call on this one, with O’Driscoll lifting the title in his swan-song for the boys in green.
The match kicks off tomorrow at 5pm.