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France boss Galthié wary of 'very strong' Ireland ahead of Six Nations title bid

Les Bleus host Andy Farrell’s side in Paris on 12 February.

France head coach Fabien Galthié.
France head coach Fabien Galthié.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

FRANCE HEAD COACH Fabien Galthié says he is wary of the threat Ireland pose in this year’s Six Nations, stating that he believes Andy Farrell’s squad can continue on their recent upward trajectory.

After struggling for form and consistency in the early days of Farrell’s reign as head coach, Ireland appeared to turn a corner in 2021, signing off for last year’s Six Nations with an encouraging display to beat England in Dublin, before a brilliant November campaign which included just a third-ever win over New Zealand.

Galthié’s France side also recorded a famous win over the All Blacks last November and head into the Six Nations as many people’s favourites for the tournament, having played some scintillating rugby over the last two years.

Despite suffering a host of withdrawals due to positive Covid tests, Les Blues are hoping to end their long wait for a Six Nations title, with their last success coming in 2010.

But Galthié says Ireland can push France close in the championship, with the two sides set for a round two meeting in Paris on 12 February.

“Talking about Ireland, which will be our second game, they are undefeated since February (2021),” Galthié said, speaking at the Guinness Six Nations launch event today.

They have won everything (since), and defeated the All Blacks in November. So they have a great ability to achieve wonderful things. They are also ahead of us in the IRB World Rankings, they’re number four (France are fifth).

“Also, other teams have had great performances. Scotland, Wales won (the Six Nations) last year, England won it two years ago, and they all have great ability, great players and are highly competitive. They all have the ability to win this tournament.

“Of course, they (Ireland) have been on a very positive (run of results), undefeated since February 2021 and defeated the All Blacks in November.

“Their provinces have been at the top level in (club) tournaments, and they’ve been on a highly positive dynamic, their elite level teams and also the national team. They are a very strong adversary, a very strong team.”

The France boss also praised the role of Antoine Dupont, with the World Player of the Year set for a potential return to action this weekend following a lengthy layoff.

The 25-year-old has not played since 11 December due to postponements, fatigue, injury and Covid, but could feature for his club, Toulouse, against Racing 92 this weekend ahead of France’s opening Six Nations fixture against Italy.

“Antoine Dupont has become a very good leader and is an extremely positive team member. He’s a role model to some players, some players look up to him.

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“He’s a very good defender, as well as very good in attacking. He’s got a great temper, but he can also be very demanding and ambitious.

“I think this is quite contagious for the whole team, who then want to be like him (and become one of the best players in the world). That’s definitely positive for the team.”  

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Ciarán Kennedy

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