France vs Ireland
Hookers Guilhem Guirado and Rory Best will captain their respective teams at the Stade de France Getty

France kick-off the second weekend of 2016 Six Nations action by hosting reigning champions Ireland in Saint-Denis.

Where to watch

France vs Ireland kicks off at 14.25 GMT on Saturday 13 February. Live coverage is available on BBC One HD from 14.00 and on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra.


Ireland began this year's competition on something of a sour note, allowing a 13-point lead and their hopes of a first Grand Slam since 2009 evaporate quickly with a 16-16 tie against a resilient Wales side who were lacking the influential Dan Biggar for almost an hour in Dublin. Unfortunately for head coach Joe Schmidt, preparation for a potentially tricky trip to Paris has been disrupted by rampant uncertainty regarding fitness issues that saw their final team announcement delayed on Thursday morning.

Key fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who formerly played his club rugby in the French capital with Racing 92, has been passed fit despite being withdrawn following a bang to the head in that high-intensity draw that left him with a slight neck compression. Simon Zebo and Keith Earls have both been ruled out due to concussion and knee problems respectively, however, with Rob Kearney in at full-back and younger brother Dave starting on the left wing.

Sean O'Brien
Sean O'Brien returns to complete a formidable Ireland back row boosted by last week's debut of Munster flanker CJ Stander AFP

Sean O'Brien replaces Tommy O'Donnell at openside flanker after recovering from a hamstring issue, completing an impressive back row alongside Jamie Heaslip and South-African born CJ Stander.

As for France, the Guy Noves era got off to a decidedly uncertain start against Italy. In what was the first sporting event to be held at the Stade de France since last year's terrorist attacks, sevens specialist Virimi Vakatawa and Damien Chouly both crossed the line in the first half either side of an effort from Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse.

They trailed by as many as eight after the break courtesy of new Italian number 10 Carlo Canna, although eventually had full-back Hugo Bonneval and a monster penalty from Jules Plisson - not to mention that botched Parisse drop goal at the death - to thank for securing an unconvincing 23-21 victory. As unpredictable as ever, France have made six changes for the visit of Ireland.

Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot come into the front row, while Yacouba Camara deputises for Louis Picamoles after the physical number eight was ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations with a pulled hamstring. Alexandre Flanquart also replaces Paul Jedrasiak. In the back division, Bonneval is benched in favour of Racing's Teddy Thomas and Maxime Mermoz partners Jonathan Danty at centre.

Virimi Vakatawa
Powerful quick wing Virimi Vakatawa made a big impact on his test debut against Italy last weekend AFP


France: 15. Maxime Medard, 14. Teddy Thomas, 13. Maxime Mermoz, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11. Virimi Vakatawa, 10. Jules Plisson, 9. Sebastien Bezy; 1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado (c), 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Alexandre Flanquart, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Wencelas Lauret, 7. Yacouba Camara, 8. Damien Chouly.

Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Rabah Slimani, 18. Eddy Ben Arous, 19. Paul Jedrasiak, 20. Loann Goujon, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Jean-Marc Doussain, 23. Hugo Bonneval

Ireland: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Andrew Trimble, 13. Jared Payne, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Dave Kearney, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Jack McGrath, 2. Rory Best (c), 3. Nathan White, 4. Devin Toner, 5. Mike McCarthy, 6. CJ Stander, 7. Sean O'Brien, 8. Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: 16. Richard Strauss, 17. James Cronin, 18. Tadhg Furlong, 19. Donnacha Ryan, 20. Tommy O'Donnell, 21. Eoin Reddan, 22. Ian Madigan, 23. Fergus McFadden

What the coaches say

Guy Noves: "We've worked on our defensive organisation to try to counter the Irish. It will be a difficult match, we hope it will be tricky for Ireland too. We've prepared for this match by getting it into our heads that we have to show more power. I do not know if we will win this weekend - but we've had a good week."

Guy Noves
Guy Noves replaced Philippe Saint-Andre as France coach at the end of the 2015 World Cup AFP

Joe Schmidt: "I don't want to encourage negativity but it's probably as difficult in some ways as the Argentina game. Again, it just doesn't help you be as well prepared as you'd like to be. It's the latest selection and change we've had to make.

"Normally we would name the match squad before training, and everyone would be fully fit and have absolute clarity on what their role was and where they were training. It's probably a bit unsettling and frustrating, but hopefully not too much. We have to get around it.

"When I look at their individuals it's a pretty scary bunch. The more time they have to form a collective the more threatening they will be. Hopefully we don't see that until rounds three, four and five."