From "dunce of European rugby" to a winning machine: The French media take on Ireland's team

We take a look at Le Rugbnistere and Midi Olympique ahead of Six Nations round 2

France, Ireland, Guilhem Guirado, Rory Best

France captain Guilhem Guirado and Ireland captain Rory Best with the RBS 6 Nations trophy ahead of Saturday's match in Stade de France, Paris ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

If recent head-to-head results between Ireland and France had any bearing this Saturday, we would be well in the driving seat pre-match.

The last two Six Nations encounters have gone Ireland's way as did the World Cup pool victory last Autumn, which ultimately proved relatively pointless as Argentina gave Joe Schmidt's side a lesson.

But Les Bleus have plenty of respect for the challenge posed by Ireland as they welcome the team to Paris and Midi Olympique writer Jerome Prevot concedes that ever since Schmidt - who the French know well from his time at Clermont - took charge of Irish rugby's top job, he has constructed a veritable "winning machine".

Prevot contrasts it with a period between 1985 and 2000 when - in his own words - Ireland's rugby were regarded as "the dunce of Europe".

Midi Olympique branding ©INPHO/James Crombie

Looking at the current side, Prevot sees a side that applied plenty of structure against Wales despite the injuries and expects Schmidt to be reactive against France by targeting their weaknesses.

In a separate piece, Midi Olympique note how France failed against us in the World Cup. They suggest that a new-look Les Bleus could use their unpredictability as an advantage against an Irish side that hasn't changed much.

Meanwhile, Le Rugbnistère also notes the level of continuity in the make-up of Ireland's squad as they review Schmidt's team selection for Saturday and highlights the need for France to show more discipline than at the World Cup when Jonny Sexton and Ian Madigan "punished" them with penalties. 

But they also see "reasons for hope" by alternating their approach and defending well, citing how Wales did cause Ireland some problems last Sunday.

And finally, Le Rugbynistere dedicate a page to legends of rugby's tributes to the retiring Paul O'Connell.