Ireland may have beaten France just once in Paris over the last 40-odd years, but the huge gap between the sides’ performance levels this season makes the 4/5 odds on an away victory, which would practically guarantee the visitors the Six Nations title, stand out like Johnny Sexton’s sore thumb.
Contrary to most pundits’ pre-tournament predictions, the Irish – who were fourth-favourites to win the championship before it began in earnest – have been breathtakingly brilliant this season and can count themselves somewhat unlucky not to be still in the hunt for a Grand Slam.
At 10-3 up early in the second half at Twickenham, against an equally-excellent England outfit, Irish eyes were smiling and a Six Nations whitewash looked very much on the cards, before a home comeback inspired by lock Courtney Laws and player of the tournament Mike Brown put paid to those hopes.
Schmidt’s side dusted themselves down and showed insatiable desire to stay in the championship race with a 47-6 thrashing of Italy at the Aviva Stadium, which means any win against France will guarantee them the title, as long as the Azzurri limit England to a 49-points or less win in Rome.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s stock of insouciant egg-chasers came into the tournament as many punters’ fancies, despite their dreadful form in the preceding 12 months, due to the trend that has stated – since 2002 – that Les Bleus always win the championship following a British and Irish Lions tour.
France were incredibly lucky to beat England at home in the first match and got their just deserts at the Millennium Stadium, when a Wales side that have been pretty awful themselves this year thumped them 27-6.
Scotland then cruelly missed out on a win against Les Bleus at Murrayfield, thanks to a last-ditch penalty, but Saint-Andre’s side’s failure to rack up points during the tournament means they need a pair of miracles in Paris and Rome to take the title.
They’re unlikely to get either, especially with Ireland naming a full-strength squad for the Stade de France clash, which will be legendary Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll’s last match in a green shirt.
Plenty of punters will be attracted by the 14/1 odds about BOD signing off with the last try of the game, but O’Driscoll’s good buddy Jamie Heaslip is also worth a wager at 9/2 in the ‘to score a try in the match’ market.
The Leinster number eight has a cracking attacking record for his country and has already gone over once in this tournament.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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