Ireland To Settle Close Call In Cardiff
France v Ireland
Ireland left their poor pre-tournament form behind when they kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 50-7 victory over Canada, in which they ran in seven tries, and then followed up with a straightforward 44-10 win against Romania.
Their first real test came against Italy last Sunday and they were made to work hard to overcome a Sergio Parisse-inspired side, but earned a 16-9 victory to set up this Pool decider.
After another disappointing 6 Nations, France went into the World Cup with low expectations, but have been quietly impressive. They began their Pool D fixtures with a potentially tricky game against Italy, which they came through with a 32-10 victory and then saw off minnows Romania and Canada to give themselves a chance of topping the Pool and avoiding New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Full back Rob Kearney and centre Jared Payne were rested for the game against Italy with a gluteal strain and a bruised foot respectively, but both are expected to be fit for the weekend having come through training on Thursday.
Cian Healy is likely to start in the front row alongside Rory Best and Mike Ross and Keith Earls could miss out as Dave Kearney and Tommy Bowe are expected to start on the wings.
Toulouse back row Louis Picamoles missed the game against Canada but will be back for this crucial encounter, and centre Mathieu Bastareaud will lead a concerted effort to knock Irish fly-half Jonny Sexton off his game.
France have had the edge in their encounters with Ireland over the years, winning 56 of their 96 meetings, and from April 2002 to August 2011, the French were victorious twelve times out of fourteen.
But over the last four years, Ireland have fared better. They managed consecutive draws in the 6 Nations in 2012 and 2013, then beat France 22-20 in a thrilling game at the Stade de France in 2014 and 18-11 at Lansdowne Road earlier this year.
It’s also worth noting how close recent matches between Ireland and France have been.
Only one of their last ten meetings has been settled by a double figure score, and in five of those games, the winning margin was five points or fewer.
Ireland’s forwards were given a tough time against Italy and they will have to improve if they are to hold their own against the powerful French eight, but assuming that they rise to the occasion, and that Jonny Sexton is given sufficient protection, I think Ireland should edge this and cover a two point handicap.
Back Ireland -2 at 10/11 in the Match Handicap market. And don’t forget, if you have a bet in the first tryscorer market, BoyleSports will give you your money back as a free bet if the first try of the game is not converted.
*Prices correct at time of publication