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SIX NATIONS RUGBY

Ireland ready for French scrum, says captain Rory Best

The Ulster hooker will lead the Irish into battle on Parisian soil this weekend and is determined to get a first win on the board after the draw with Wales in Dublin.

Ireland ready for French scrum, says captain Rory Best
FRANCK FIFE AFP

Ireland captain Rory Best insisted on Friday that the changes to France's scrum would not catch the reigning Six Nations champions by surprise.

Joe Schmidt’s team play their first away match of this season's tournament at the Stade de France on Saturday, determined to make up for the difficulties they suffered up front against Wales a week ago. That game ended in a 16-16 draw which rules out any chances of winning a Grand Slam.

France coach Guy Noves changed his two props from last week's narrow 23-21 win over Italy in the same stadium, but Best says the Irish won't be caught cold a second week in a row.

“France have got a very, very good squad. No matter who they pick you know it's going to be a tough challenge”, said the Ulster hooker.

“There are three changes in the front five; it certainly freshens things up and paints a bit of a different picture for us, but it by no means weakens them”.

The hulking pair of Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot have taken the places of Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben-Arous, who both drop to the bench.

From the scrum point of view the four props haven't changed from the last matchday squad”, added the 33-year-old.“It's something that we pride ourselves on, is that we put as much attention and detail onto the subs as we do onto the others because sometimes, and a lot of the time, it's the end of the game that is the winning of it”.

Ireland have not lost to France in their last five meetings, but Best says that run should not have any effect on Saturday's outcome.

Ireland managed to hold on for a draw against Wales last week

“We've had a fantastic record here under (head coach) Joe Schmidt -- I think we've only played here once (a 22-20 success two years ago)! It's an incredibly tough place to play”, he said.

One element most concerning the champions is France's ability to hit them on the counter.

Fijian-born wing Virimi Vakatawa was one of the few bright points from France's disappointing performance against the Italians.

He will be joined in their back three by the returning wing Teddy Thomas and Maxime Medard, who retains his place at full-back.