France captain Thierry Dusautoir is expecting his side to face a huge physical challenge when they meet defending champions Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations tomorrow.
Both sides enter the Stade de France clash on the back of victories, with France producing a commanding display to beat Scotland 18-9 at Murrayfield and Ireland easing past Italy 29-11 at Croke Park.
Ireland have not won in Paris since a Brian O’Driscoll hat-trick inspired them to a 27-25 win in 2000 but Toulouse flanker Dusautoir is expecting a bruising contest in a match that many pundits believe could decide the outcome of this year’s tournament.
“We expect a game with as much intensity as Scotland, but with a more physical side,” he told L’Equipe.
“They will try to mark us. They also know how to finish off their chances around the field with three-quarters who like to play ball.”
The 28-year-old also acknowledged the excellence of the Irish second-row combination of British and Irish Lions captain Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan, who will miss the game through injury and is replaced by Leo Cullen.
He said: “Out of touch, they are difficult to read and have excellent variation. They are very intelligent.
“We must not ask too many questions of ourselves when we throw-in and modify our plans at the last moment, with the risk of confused.
“We will be need to be efficient to avoid any errors in our line-outs.
Dusautoir went on to say that the Irish second row is stronger than South Africa’s combination of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, widely acknowledged as the best in the world.
“I think they are better than the Springboks,” he continued.
“Ireland are based on O’Connell and O’Callaghan. Their lifters are highly reactive, particularly in key defensive moments. To me, this is the best team in Europe.
France have made two enforced changes for tomorrow’s match with Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson coming in for wings Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall.
France were criticised in their own media for their second-half display at Murrayfield last Sunday, but Dusautoir insists that the result is all that matters to Les Blues.
He said: “We were criticised for our second half-time in Scotland, I do not care a bit. I want to win now. Even if it’s 3-0, I will be happy.
“We can be as ineffective as they say this weekend and win! If we win, we will have done what we need.”