France v Ireland, Six Nations Championship, February 13
Battle lines drawn for Paris showdown
February 10, 2010

Ronan O'Gara has retained the Ireland No.10 jersey for their vital Six Nations trip to face France at the Stade de France.

Leinster's Jonathan Sexton has been named among a replacements contingent that will be trimmed from nine to seven later in the week, with Paddy Wallace the other fly-half option in the squad. Keith Earls replaces Andrew Trimble on the wing but Leo Cullen retains a starting spot in the second-row as Donncha O' Callaghan has failed to recovery from injury.

A vacancy has been left at blindside flanker pending further fitness tests for Ulster's Stephen Ferris, with Kevin McLaughlin among the replacements and set to step in should Ferris miss out. Both O'Callaghan and Ferris trained with the squad at the RDS on Tuesday and a final decision on the No.6 jersey will be taken on Thursday.

"Ronan had a very good game against Italy so there was no reason not to play him this week," Kidney said. "Jon has been making a good recovery and the final stage of that should be achieved tomorrow when he goes place kicking. We're in the lucky position of having two good fly-halves and Ronan's experience will be more than helpful going to Paris.

"We'll make a decision as soon as we can with Stephen, but sometimes you don't make a decision until you have to. Donncha trained this morning but just isn't right to take the pitch on Saturday. Keith did very well against South Africa last autumn and didn't do anything wrong in December or January. I wanted to give Andrew a go to see how he went last week. He went well but Keith deserves his go now. Andrew tweaked his hamstring and we want to give him full time to recover."

Last weekend's try-scorers Jamie Heaslip and Tomas O'Leary are retained while John Hayes and Brian O'Driscoll both edge closer to a century of Ireland Tests. O'Driscoll will win his 98th cap and Hayes his 99th, with both having topped 100 already with their British & Irish Lions caps taken into consideration.

France coach Marc Lievremont has made two changes to the side that swept Scotland aside in Paris last weekend. Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson come in for wings Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall, who were yesterday both forced to withdraw from the the team's opening win against Scotland on Sunday with injuries. Brive's Palisson has been preferred to Clermont wing Julien Malzieu while Jean-Baptiste Poux, who was also called up yesterday to replace Luc Ducalcon, starts from the bench with Sylvain Marconnet moving to the stands.

"You don't change a winning team," said Lievremont. "Playing Vincent Clerc from the start shouldn't cause a debate, there was a lot of discussion on who to play on the left wing. We decided to go with the versatility and left foot of Alexis Palisson. We know the qualities of Julien Malzieu but it seemed interesting to us to have the presence of Alexis alongside Clement Poitrenaud."

Controversial centre Mathieu Bastareaud has kept his place in the starting line-up after he made an impressive comeback against Scotland, inspiring Les Bleus to and 18-9 triumph at Murrayfield. Making his first Test start since disgracing himself by falsely claiming he had been assaulted during his country's tour of New Zealand last summer, the 21-year-old responded with his first two international tries.

Lievremont has also demanded his side raise their game for the first of three home games in this year's Championship. "I believe we were in Scotland's half for 60-65% percent of the time and we had 55 percent possession. But we failed to kill the match as a contest," Lievremont said. "It is imperative that we do better against Ireland, who have more weapons than the Scots.

France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); V Clerc (Toulouse), M Bastareaud (Stade Francais), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), A Palisson (Brive); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Parra (Clermont); T Domingo (Clermont), W Servat (Toulouse), N Mas (Perpignan), L Nallet (Racing Metro), P Pape (Stade Francais), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), F Ouedraogo (Montpellier), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz).

Replacements : D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), S Marconnet (Stade Francais), J Pierre (Clermont), J Bonnaire (Clermont), D Marty (Perpignan), F Michalack (Toulouse), J Malzieu (Clermont).

Ireland: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Ospreys), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster); Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Tomas O'Leary (Munster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Jerry Flannery (Munster), John Hayes (Munster), Leo Cullen (Leinster), Paul O'Connell (Munster), A.N.Other, David Wallace (Munster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

Replacements: Rory Best (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television Match Official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)


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