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Nic Ladds 6th Feb 2009 - 11:30

France can make Ireland choke at Croke

Declan Kidney will be hoping he's got the formula right with his team selection as at 4/7 in the betting his Ireland side host the unpredictable France.

France are available at odds of 11/8 and this looks a fair price. The French have the capability to beat anybody on their day but at the same time can throw in an absolute stinker just as easily.

France can take comfort in the fact that they have an excellent record against Ireland in the Six Nations.

Since 2000 Ireland have beaten France just three times, two of those victories were by one point, and the other was by two points.

This suggests that the bet could be backing France on the handicap receiving three points at odds of 10/11. Ireland meanwhile are 10/11 giving up three points.

History is not always the best indicator of what will happen in International matches however and we are best of judging the team's chances on the squad's they selected.

France look like they will lose out in the pack as they have a lot of slow forwards who simply don't look dynamic enough to trouble the Ireland front men.

Lionel Beauxis has not looked anything special so far this season and he will need to raise his game to really worry the Irish and can be backed at 25/1 to score the first try.

France's strength comes in the shape of their back line comprised largely of Toulouse players who will therefore know each other's games inside out.

Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion and Maxime Medard all play together week in, week out and Julien Malzieu who plays for Clermont looks a superstar in the making.

Jauzion in particular is on top form and is 16/1 to get the first try with Malzieu 12/1 and Medard also available at odds of 12/1.

Ireland should win the battle up front with Paul O'Connell an inspiration and the Irish forwards looking a lot more mobile than the French.

The question is whether the Irish backs are still the force they once were. Brian O'Driscoll still has the talent to win matches on his own but age maybe just starting to catch up on him and he hasn't quite looked his sparkling self this season. There is no doubt he will however be popular at 16/1 to score the first try.

Tommy Bowe looks an exciting prospect on the wing at 10/1 for first try with Luke Fitzgerald at 11/1 in the betting.

Ronan O'Gara has for years been one of the most consistently best kickers around and his kicking could play a big part in Ireland's game plan.

Croke Park is not as familiar to him as though as the fortress that is Landsdowne Road and with the bigger pitch his kicking has not appeared to be quite as accurate as it has been over the years.

One thing for sure though, if O'Gara does struggle to get his kicks accurate then Beauxis will struggle for sure. For those that really fancy a different bet this could give a bit of value to the 'no' option of will the first try be converted at 7/4.

The Irish have a host of talent to call on from the bench with the likes of Peter Stringer and Gordon D'Arcy waiting in the wings, that could be the difference later on in the game which make the last team try being scored by Ireland at 4/5 appealing.

This will be extremely close and a winning margin either way of 1-5 could well be the call with odds of 4/1 for that in Ireland's favour and 5/1 in France's favour.

Ireland's best chance of stopping the French totally is stop any ball getting out to their back line and in particular their excellent wingers who could have the measure of the older Irish legs.

If Ireland use their advantage in the pack, in O'Driscoll and O'Gara they have two of the best tactical minds in the game.

This is going to be a belter and is desperately close to call but due to the larger price France are going to be the tentative suggestion to make use of their young but talented back line.

France - 11/8
The first try not to be converted - 7/4

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