Six Nations 2014: Unpredictable France Can Spoil Ireland's Party in Paris

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

Ireland are in pole position to claim the Six Nations championship on Saturday, but they must be wary of an unpredictable French side.

Joe Schmidt's side will almost certainly claim the crown with a win, as their points difference is 49 better than England's going into the final round of matches.

And France have been woeful for much of this tournament, but somehow they have won three games, including two late victories against England and Scotland.

However, Ireland have a terrible record playing in Paris. They have won there only once in 42 years.

That win came in 2000 when a Brian O'Driscoll hat-trick sealed a narrow two-point victory for the Irish.

And if Ireland wish to win a first title since 2009, they must add another victory to that terrible tally on the occasion of O'Driscoll's final international game.

Ireland's assistant coach Les Kiss has highlighted the threat that France pose, per the Press Association (via the Guardian):

There's a perception that they are dishevelled, that they are in a dishevelled place of chaos.

But when you look at it as forensically as we have, you can see an order to that chaos, you can see what they're trying to achieve, you can see that they do allow their individuals to put themselves into the game in dangerous situations.

So as much as they might look disorganised, there's a certain way they play that you have to be aware of; they are a very dangerous team across the park.

If France can put together a performance, they may yet ruin the party for Ireland and O'Driscoll.

On opening day against England, France showed they have the quality to beat Ireland. They eventually won that match with a last-gasp try, but the first-half performance was one of quality.

It saw them take the lead after only 32 seconds, and they were 16-3 in front within minutes.

A lead like that combined with the nerves of the final day could make Ireland's a very tricky task.

Since the opening match France have been distinctly average. They squeezed past Scotland last week, beat Italy and were thumped 27-6 by Wales.

But France can always produce a performance.

It should also be borne in mind that Philippe Saint-Andre's Les Bleus side may still be in with a chance of winning the whole thing.

If England lose to Italy early on Saturday, the Paris game becomes a winner-takes-all affair. Nothing could galvanise the French more than a shot at the title.

There is also the remarkable stat that France have won every single Five or Six Nations immediately after a Lions tour in the professional era.

You can never rule them out.

With the emotion of O'Driscoll's final game for the Irish to contend with and a Paris crowd willing the home team on, it may not all go to plan for the supposed champions-elect.