Despite an impressive performance from Andy Farrell’s men against Wales, Ireland will be looking for their first win in the Six Nations this weekend.
Ireland will take on arguably the best team in the tournament on Sunday when they welcome France to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
With a number of injuries and a suspension to deal with, there could be a raft of changes made to the Ireland match day squad for the second round of the Six Nations.
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Below is the team that we think should face France.
Cian Healy, Rob Herring and Andrew Porter
Same again in the front row after a solid performance at both the set-piece and the loose from Ireland’s big men.
While the trio’s positions are safe for now, each man has considerable competition in the form of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong, who all made impressive cameos off the bench against Wales.
While the front row deserves to remain unchanged for France, it wouldn’t be overly-surprising to see a completely different trio start for Ireland by the end of the Six Nations.
Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson
With James Ryan leaving the pitch due to a head injury against Wales, it is unlikely we’ll see the Leinster lock play against France on Sunday.
While Ryan would be a loss to any team, Ireland are in safe hands with Beirne and Henderson in tow.
Beirne put in a man of the match-worthy performance against the Welsh in Cardiff, while Henderson was Ireland’s most impressive replacement in the gut-wrenching loss.
Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander
Ruddock has been one of Leinster’s best players so far this season and is well-deserving of a place in the starting team, especially in light of Peter O’Mahony’s absence.
There is very little to separate van der Flier and Will Connors at the moment, but the Wicklow man didn’t put a foot wrong against Wales, showing great restraint to recycle the ball for Beirne’s try.
Stander had a vintage performance for Ireland against Wales and more bruising runs will be need from the Munster man against the ferocious Shaun Edwards-trained French defence.
Conor Murray and Billy Burns
Johnny Sexton, like Ryan, is unlikely to play this weekend after suffering a head injury so we’ve treated it as if the Ireland captain is unavailable.
Murray did make a couple of errors in Cardiff, but overall he controlled the game well and injected more tempo than we have seen from the Munster scrum-half in some time.
Burns will obviously be hurting after his late skewed kick against Wales, but does offer more than Ross Byrne in attack in what could be a high-scoring game.
Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose
While Ireland have plenty of strength in depth at centre, it’s hard to make a valid argument against starting the Leinster duo against France.
Henshaw was Ireland’s second-best player in Cardiff (just edged out by Beirne) and showed an incredible engine as he caused problems for Wales right until the death.
Ringrose was also impressive and may be handed the captaincy this weekend in the absence of Sexton, Ryan and O’Mahony.
James Lowe, Jordan Larmour and Hugo Keenan
While Lowe did have some defensive lapses he remains one of Ireland’s best attacking players and also showed he is potentially Ireland’s best option when it comes to clearing kicks.
While Earls has put in plenty of great performance over the years, he wasn’t up to standard on Sunday and should be replaced by Larmour against France.
Keenan put in yet another solid performance at full back and is really starting to nail down that 15 jersey for Ireland.
Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne and Keith Earls
There’s no need for any changes to the front-row replacements after each man made a sizeable contribution against Wales, while Connors also deserves to retain his spot on the bench.
Dillane has found game time hard to come by for Ireland in recent years but rarely disappoints when given the opportunity at international level.
While Jamison Gibson-Park played well enough in the closing stages of the game in Cardiff, it’s time that Casey was given an opportunity for his country
While Keith Earls was disappointing in the opening Six Nations match he does offer plenty of experience off the bench and can play at centre if needs be.