Heaslip returns but Ireland still without Bowe for France clash

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Dublin looked set to host the biggest game of the Six Nations this week, that was until a sluggish Ireland laboured to a win over the Italians last week.

A drop goal from Ronan O’Gara saved the Irish their blushes, but after witnessing a defiant running rugby display from France last week, Brian O’Driscoll’s men must improve ten-fold if they are to have any hope of winning.

Ireland finished second last year but a poor autumn campaign saw them enter this championships as the third favourites and they are as big as 4/1 to win the Six Nations after last week’s results.

France are 8/13 to win in Dublin this weekend, that’s short when you consider 60 per cent of games in the Six Nations have been won by the home team, with Ireland available at 5/4.

Jamie Heaslip has recovered sufficiently from injury to warrant a starting spot, but Ireland’s leading tryscorer in last Six Nations missing out once again.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Tommy Bowe, but the winger plays a pivotal role in an Irish backline that sees opposition defenders target O’Driscoll.

Bowe’s versatility to switch off the wing to offer a direct approach in the centre confuses defences and frees up space for O’Driscoll to exploit his magic.

O’Driscoll was Ireland’s stand out player last week and is now 10/1 to be the tournament’s top tryscorer after bagging a try.

But the rest of the Irish back line failed to provide the try-threatening support that O’Driscoll craves and the loss of Bowe makes the French a solid bet at 8/13.

Six Nations games between Ireland and France are always close and backing France to win by 6-10 points is the pick of the market at 9/2.

A £25 stake on France winning by 16-20 points would return £275. New customers can sign up here for a free Six Nations bet worth £25.

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.