Ireland captain Rory Best believes the changes to France’s scrum would not catch the reigning Six Nations champions by surprise.
Ireland play their first away match of this season’s tournament at the Stade de France on Saturday, determined to make up for the difficulties they suffered up front against Wales a week ago.
And although France coach Guy Noves changed his two props from last week’s narrow 23-21 win over Italy in the same stadium, Best says the Irish won’t be caught cold a second week in a row.
“France have got a very, very good squad. No matter who they pick you know it’s going to be a tough challenge,” said the Ulster hooker.
“There are three changes in the front five; it certainly freshens things up and paints a bit of a different picture for us, but it by no means weakens them.”
The pair of Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot have taken the places of Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben-Arous, who both drop to the bench.
“From the scrum point of view the four props haven’t changed from the last matchday squad,” added the 33-year-old.
“It’s something that we pride ourselves on, is that we put as much attention and detail onto the subs as we do onto the others because sometimes, and a lot of the time, it’s the end of the game that is the winning of it.”
Ireland, who started with a 16-16 draw against Wales last week that ruled out a chance of a grand slam this year, have not lost to France in their last five, but Best says that run should not have any affect on Saturday’s outcome.
“We’ve had a fantastic record here under (head coach) Joe Schmidt – I think we’ve only played here once (a 22-20 success two years ago)! It’s an incredibly tough place to play,” he said.
“I’ve played here quite a few times -- certainly in the early part of my career -- with no joy whatsoever. They’re a quality side, it’s a very, very tough place to come and play.
“Whenever they sing the French national anthem, if you’re a rugby neutral or a fan and in the ground, it’s a great place to be because it’s sung with so much passion.
“Obviously from the players’ point of view you have to block all that out but you know it will be a great atmosphere tomorrow.
“But ultimately it comes down to rugby and they’re a quality side and we know that we’re going to have to be better than we were last week to get a result.”
Meanwhile, Shaun Edwards, the Wales assistant coach, does not believe his side have an edge over today’s opponents Scotland, and their past clashes will have no bearing on today’s match-up.
Wales have not lost to the Scots during head coach Warren Gatland’s reign, winning eight successive Tests, while Scotland’s last victory in Cardiff came 14 years ago.
When they last visited the Welsh capital in 2014, full-back Stuart Hogg was sent off after just 22 minutes and Scotland crashed to a record 51-3 defeat.
“Every game is a different entity,” Edwards said. “The fact that we’ve won our last eight means nothing, come tomorrow.
“We have a lot of respect for Scotland – they bring the best out of us. The teams that bring the best out of you are the teams that you know can hurt you.
“You have to be switched on in defence and be ready. One year, they came down and they were the better team, but we’ve done OK since then.”
Edwards described Wales’ pre-match mood as “determined, very determined” and they know four successive wins are now realistically required following last Sunday’s 16-16 draw against Ireland in their quest for a fourth Six Nations title since Gatland took charge.
“It’s still in our hands, that is what’s good about it,” he said.
“If we had lost (against Ireland), then you have to rely on other teams to lose.
“If Ireland win every game, then we will have to beat them on points difference, but it’s still in our hands. There is no risk of complacency whatsoever.”
Wales hooker Scott Baldwinshared the view, and said: “You just go to win every game, like the World Cup.
“We have four games left, and if we win those four games and Ireland do also, it will go down to the same (points difference) as we did last year.
“We have to go out with the mentality of ‘if we win the rest of the games, we win the championship’.”
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