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Ireland welcome resurgent France

Wednesday, 6th March, 2019 4:31pm

After a two week break, Ireland will return to the pitch at the weekend, for the penultimate round of the Six Nations when they welcome France to Dublin.

It's been a mixed tournament for the Irish so far, and Joe Schmidt's team will be looking for a solid performance and win ahead of the final round next week when they travel to Wales with hopes still of winning the championship, thanks to Wales beating England two weeks ago.

As it stands, Ireland are third in the table, with Wales leading the pack with three wins from three.

Ahead of Sunday afternoon's kick-off, France have named an unchanged 23 from the team that beat Scotland in the last round, to take on Ireland.

Speaking ahead of Sunday, Rob Kearney lamented Ireland's tournament performances so far, which have been far from what this team are capable of.

“It was a good to get back together after a game at the weekend where you're not entirely happy with what you achieved - you just want to get out on the pitch as soon as possible and try and work on those things again. There's a lot of excitement, there's a bit of nerves, bit of frustration but there's a huge amount of confidence as well in our ability and the type of game that we know we're close to producing,” he said.

“We're going to be filled with a different amount of emotions throughout the week but I think the important thing for us is that when the weekend does come, there's a huge amount of excitement to go play rugby.

“We're at home, with our home fans in the Aviva in a Six Nations game playing for your country and that needs to be the overriding feeling for us at the weekend.”

One point Kearney was picked up on was a possible fall in standards within the squad, in comparison with the team who beat New Zealand in the autumn internationals last November. Ahead of the Rugby World Cup at the end of this year, it has been mooted that this side have perhaps peaked too soon, but Kearney was quick to dash that notion.

“Sport is very, very psychological and sometimes in those games, particularly in the Italian game, a lot of the mistakes and the fact that we might have went in to our shell a little bit and showed a little bit of our anxiety, that's all psychological.”

As for France, Kearney said: “We're probably going to get the best French performance we've seen in the championship so far. It's unusual for them to pick the same side two weeks on the bounce so it's obviously a huge sign of confidence from the coach in that group.

“They played some really good rugby against Scotland, two tries disallowed, scored four. So we're expecting a pretty good French side to come to Dublin. We'll do our player profiles (today) and we'll do them again at the end of the week, try and know them inside out.

“While you're always concerned and your top priority is yourself, you need to be very mindful of the opposition and the type of opponents that you're coming up against,” he said.

The Irish camp had been dealt a blow this week with confirmation that Robbie Henshaw and Dan Leavy will not be part of Sunday's matchday squad.

However, there was a positive update on Joey Carbery, with a statement from the IRFU saying: “Robbie Henshaw is improving more slowly than hoped and he will continue his rehab this week. Joey Carbery is progressing well through his hamstring rehab and will be managed across the early part of the week.

“Andrew Conway has fully recovered from cramp suffered post the Italy game. Dan Leavy will continue to increase his running volume outside of team training in the early part of this week. All players in action for their provinces over the weekend in the Guinness Pro14 have reported no issues upon returning to national camp.”

Ireland versus Frances kicks-off at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday at 3pm.

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