Rugby Union

'We know what to expect but they were well beaten by the English' – Brunel to focus on Irish weaknesses

As Joe Schmidt keeps his squad under wraps for 24 extra hours, his opposite number Jacques Brunel named his team five days out from Sunday’s crunch Six Nations clash and vowed that his team would expose Ireland’s vulnerabilities.

Despite assembling his players on Monday night, the Irish supremo has deferred publicly naming his panel for the penultimate match of this year’s Championship until this morning. It is expected he’ll confirm that Seán Cronin has been dropped after his misfiring performance against Italy, with Rob Herring coming in.

The IRFU did issue an injury bulletin that appeared to rule Robbie Henshaw, Dan Leavy and Joey Carbery out of the game, but Andrew Conway is expected to be available.

Herring will be joined in the squad by Tadhg Beirne, Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Kieran Marmion. Seán O’Brien will be included after Schmidt did not involve him in last week’s training camp in Belfast.

The French are taking a very different approach to the game as Brunel named an unchanged match-day 23 for the first time in his France tenure.

And the coach said his team will work to expose struggling Ireland’s weaknesses as they look to back up their win over Scotland.

“What England offered us was of high quality; we have worked since then but it’s hard to predict everything,” he said.

“The Irish are going to put pressure on us with their kicking game, whether it’s Conor Murray or Johnny Sexton. We will try to master this characteristic of the Irish game.

“We watched their matches, we saw their ability to hold the ball and inflict long sequences on their opponents.

“We know what to expect but they were well beaten by the English. There are weaknesses and we will try to pressure those.

“They beat New Zealand in November and are still the No 2 team in the world. But everything is moving quickly – look at Wales, who have almost become invincible.”

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