Andy Farrell says his Ireland team need to step out of the shadow cast by Johnny Sexton when they take on France in the Six Nations on Saturday (Grand Slam Winner – France 10/3, Ireland 9/2).
Ireland’s captain, goal-kicker, playmaker and talisman will miss the 16:45 trip to the Stade de France after suffering a hamstring injury in training on Wednesday.
Joey Carbery will step up to fly-half, with lock James Ryan taking on the captaincy. Much of the focus has been on how Carbery will handle the occasion on his first Six Nations start, with both injuries and Sexton’s form curtailing his opportunities in recent years.
The 26-year-old’s duel with France number 10 Romain Ntamack could decide the game, but Farrell says the pressure does not rest solely on his shoulders (Match Betting – France 1/2, Ireland 19/10, Tie 18/1).
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Instead, the coach has called on his team to be galvanised by Sexton’s absence, demanding that each and every one of his players take responsibility as they eye a 10th straight win since going down 15-13 to Les Bleus last year.
“It’s not just about Joey and can he handle Paris – it’s about us as a group,” he said. “That’s what Johnny does; he makes sure that the whole group is exactly as it should be.
“It’s not just about the number 10 as far as the direction of the team is concerned. It’s about everyone that takes the field.”
Both teams opened their campaigns with bonus-point wins, the Irish easing past Wales 29-7, while France had too much for Italy, triumphing 37-10.
Ireland have lost their last two matches against Fabien Galthie’s men and are being handed a +5 handicap at 20/21 against a side who are aiming to win their opening two games of the Championship for the third straight year.
In the earlier match at 14:15, Gregor Townsend has told his Scotland players to use their experience of winning in London and Paris to see them home against Wales (Match Betting – Wales 11/8, Scotland 8/11, Tie 18/1).
The Scots retained the Calcutta Cup with a 20-17 win over England last Saturday and head to Cardiff eyeing a first victory since 2002.
Townsend played in that game and did watch his team beat Wales away in 2020, albeit that match was held in Llanelli.
A victory in the Welsh capital will see 12/1 Scotland edge closer to a first Six Nations Grand Slam, and the 48-year-old believes his team’s previous successes can help guide them to victory.
“We’ve had experiences against top sides home and away and shown resilience in those games,” he said.
“We’ve not won them all, but I believe the tests we had in Paris and Twickenham sets us up for a great challenge this week with a full stadium, one of the best venues in the world.”
Townsend has made five changes to his starting XV for the match, with Sione Tuipulotu’s (4/1 Anytime Tryscorer) inclusion at inside centre the standout call.
Reigning champions Wales remain without the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and George North and hand a debut to 22-year-old Jac Morgan at openside flanker.
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