Six Nations: Favourites France ready to step up for Ireland clash

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France kicked off their 2012 Six Nations campaign on Saturday, comfortably triumphing 30-12 over an Italy side not expected to have any impact on the competition in Paris.

The French are on home soil again next week, meeting an Ireland team that suffered only a narrow 23-21 defeat to a fancied Welsh side at the Aviva Stadium over the weekend.

Coach Phillipe Saint-Andre took charge of France for the first time in the victory over Italy, and although he was satisfied with the victory over the tournament minnows, he did admit that he expected his side to excel to ‘another level’ when the Irish travel to Paris on Saturday.

The biggest plus point of Saint-Andre’s maiden game in charge was arguably the performance of debutant Wesley Fofana.

Special praise was reserved for the 24-year-old centre, whose second-half performance was electric as France played with an added verve and in a more expressive manner than that which saw them suffer a close defeat in the World Cup final of last year.

Saint-Andre’s selection raised some eyebrows, with a crop of younger talent featured in his squad such as Fofana, but also with Vincent Debaty recalled for the first time since his 2006 debut, and the likes of these players contributed to the more fluent and vibrant rugby we saw from the French.

This style could perfectly counter the outdated and sterile rugby that the Irish have been criticised for playing, with their talented backline being exposed as an unbalanced unit in their clash with Wales.

France could look to use the wings as effectively as Wales did to overcome Ireland, and with Vincent Clerc and Julien Malzieu looking particularly impressive at the weekend, Andre-Saint could get his wish for a well-rounded performance and emphatic win.

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