Teenager Jalibert at flyhalf for France? You won't see it in SA…

Scotland stunned Ireland at Murrayfield in the opening match last year

Scotland stunned Ireland at Murrayfield in the opening match last yearOWEN HUMPHREYS PA

Sexton was the Irish hero at a packed Stade de France with with a dramatic drop goal from the halfway line three minutes after the final hooter.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Wales sweep it, but for the good of the competition we just want to see close games, and an exciting brand of rugby.

France coach Jacques Brunel told Reuters that the "players did have knee injuries, but the independent doctor decided on the HIA".

By contrast, France arrive onto this fixture with no form, a new coach and a 19-year old fly-half in Matthieu Jalibert who only made his top 14 debut three months ago. In Dupont's case, the HIA meant France were able to return their starting scrum-half to the fray.

'No matter how much you've prepared yourself, even if you've been here before, for any player to step out into that stadium and the noise generated, I wouldn't say it's so much a shock as a hugely motivating factor. And he called the game-defining play on his own shoulders with time long up and energy spent after 41 grueling phases.

They claimed the 22 drop out and initiated a long sequence of nearly five minutes of possession that ended with Sexton's incredible kick.

It took about 50 minutes to attain anything like the energy levels we saw in the Wales-Scotland match in Cardiff and we were briefly treated to a rendition of La Marseillaise. And when Johnny struck the drop-goal I was just willing it to have enough distance.

Ryan will earn his fifth cap at the Stade de France, partnering British and Irish Lions lock Iain Henderson.

Anthony Belleau, a replacement for the unfortunate Jalibert, converted for a 13-12 lead but then missed a relatively straightforward kick that would have put France four points up with two minutes remaining.

That was the highlight of a hard debut for the 19-year-old Bordeaux playmaker, who was forced to leave the pitch moments later after a large collision with the imposing frame of Ireland new boy Bundee Aki, which left both players on the deck.

Ireland, however, had dominated the game and it was only on Thomas's splendid try that they seemed to be in difficulty.

His nervy start included dropping a high ball, a wayward chip kick that went to Keith Earls and a missed tackle on Jacob Stockdale.

Jalibert left the pitch to be replaced by Belleau on the half hour after hurting his knee.

"It was a stop-start game with a lot of penalties", he added to explain why Ireland had failed to score a try.

France: Palis; Thomas, Lamerat, Chavancy, Vakatawa; Jalibert, Machenaud; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Gourdon. With their key men Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and Tadhg Furlong all fit and firing, there's no reason to suspect that the men in green won't stretch their winning streak to eight games.

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