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Eire gear up for Six Nations opener towards France

06 February 2018

Failure to start well in this competition puts a side on the back foot, and then with only four steps to the finish line, it can be nearly impossible to catch up, meaning there is plenty riding on Ireland's opener against France in Paris this afternoon (4.45pm kick-off). The 32-year-old kicked all of Ireland's points.

Twice in this game - firstly with an injury to teenage fly-half Matthieu Jalibert and later to Antoine Dupont - French players went off with what looked like knee injuries. And now coach Joe Schmidt has promoted the former under-20s skipper to face Jacques Brunel's new-look France in Paris.

The Owen Farrell lookalike, who was coached by Jalibert at Bordeaux-Begles before he took charge of Les Bleus, became the first teenager to start a Six Nations match at 10 for fifty years. "We're going to try to provide him (Jalibert) with the same conditions and we hope he'll succeed in the same way as those I've just mentioned".

"They didn't ask questions, they gave them belief".

It continues a trend in France over the a year ago in which a number of talented young half-backs have been thrust onto the worldwide arena.

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The Guardian newspaper said when Dupont went down in the 76th minute "it was clear he had hurt his right knee".

Yes, a teenager, a 19-year-old, will start an worldwide match in one of the most competitive rugby competitions in the world against one of the tournament favourites.

"It's about balance because putting Matthieu Jalibert at fly-half, there's an obvious inexperience in that respect", added Brunel.

I really want to see them do well.

It took about 50 minutes to attain anything like the energy levels we saw in the Wales-Scotland match in Cardiff and we were briefly treated to a rendition of La Marseillaise.

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Meanwhile, speaking after the game, Zidane did his best to stay positive despite the pressure continuing to build. A hard season has seen Madrid fall 19 points behind leaders Barcelona and go out of the Copa del Rey to Leganes.

And Brunel gave short shrift to suggestions his side could be on a hiding to nothing.

Stockdale has scored four tries in his previous four appearances, while Aki made his debut in the autumn win over South Africa. "That suits me very well", he said defiantly.

"The players did have knee injuries, but the independent doctor decided on the HIA".

"All our goals would've crumbled if we'd lost." the British and Irish Lion told the BBC. "But we also know we have untapped strength". Defeat here would just put so much pressure on you'.

"The first game is always the most hard because as Tommy said earlier it's about building momentum, it's about getting a series of runs and if you win your first game automatically you put yourself ahead of the rest".

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It's not simply a matter of getting spooked by the City of Lights, whatever form France take they will always be big, imposing physical men who love to smash the more skillful members of the opposition.

Eire gear up for Six Nations opener towards France