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Conservative Schmidt taking big risk in going for safe option against threatening France

11 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Conservative Schmidt taking big risk in going for safe option against threatening France

Ireland are unbeaten in four against France but are conceding mental edge by allowing Les Bleus to set the agenda in pool decider

If Ireland and France were looking for some light relief the night before their pool-deciding clash on Sunday, they may well have found it in watching their common enemy slip out of the tournament on television.

Or perhaps not – for if there was one unlikely lesson to be learned from England’s dead rubber walkover against a bunch of amateurs, it was on what fine margins World Cups can be decided.

This may have been a disastrous campaign for the hosts, but when all was said and done they actually only ended up missing out on qualification from the Pool of Death by two points.

Two points that could have been taken from Wales’ total and added to theirs – all if they had not made the bizarre decision in the dying minutes of their game against the same team to turn down a kick at goal.

Yet the truth is that England’s demise did not come about through their questionable attempt to win the game against Wales, nor through their stubborn refusal to draw it – it was down to their determination to try and not lose it.

As the personification of pragmatism, Joe Schmidt would do well to learn from some of the lessons given to Stuart Lancaster about the dangers of aiming to blunt your opposition’s weapons rather than sharpen your own.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, the New Zealander has spoken of the importance of overcoming the “fear factor” if Ireland are to avoid his home country in the quarter-finals – but he has hardly led by example in the naming of the team.

There is a lot of sense in the surprise selection of Devin Toner in the second row – with the six foot 11 forward better equipped to disrupt the French line-out and consequently starve the supply of maul ball for their powerful pack to feed off.

However, to accommodate the safe option by dropping Iain Henderson – one of the standout performers of the tournament so far – constitutes a big risk.

Ireland are not blessed with many powerful ball carriers like the 23-year-old second row, and the quick-rucking game on which they rely to wear down the opposition needs somebody to give them forward momentum by making those hard yards.

France should have no such worries after Ireland lost their midfield lynchpin in Jared Payne to a fractured foot, with Keith Earls taking over at outside centre.

The versatile back already has three tries to his name at the tournament and is 3/1 to extend that record further by scoring at any time on Sunday, but it is in defence rather than attack where Earls may struggle in protecting his channel from the rampaging runs of Mathieu Bastareaud.

He will have to do so without being able to rely on support from his back row, who should have their hands full in protecting Johnny Sexton – who France have already announced they will be targeting with ball in hand.

Les Bleus certainly boast an impressive World Cup record against the Irish having won all three previous meetings in the competition by an average margin of 22 – and they are 28/1 to prevail by between 20 and 25 points once again.

Such an outcome is admittedly unlikely given how tight the game looks set to be, particularly given Schmidt’s preference for containing sides rather than trying to cut them to pieces.

Yet that strategy has always been based upon getting ahead and managing the game from there on in – something Ireland will be unable to do if they are on the back foot.

With the stakes so high, Schmidt has taken a big gamble in allowing France to call the shots.

France v Ireland match betting

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