Six Nations 2017: Ireland must curb France's Louis Picamoles - Stephen Ferris

Sean O'Brien tackles Louis Picamoles during the 2015 World Cup match in Cardiff
Stephen Ferris says Sean O'Brien and his back row colleagues must subdue Louis Picamoles in Dublin
Six Nations: Ireland v France
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 25 February Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio Ulster & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary

Stephen Ferris believes Ireland will be well on the way to beating France if they can curb in-form Louis Picamoles in Saturday's Six Nations game.

Picamoles has been a barnstorming force for France so far in the Six Nations and will also be part of a back row unit targeting fit-again Johnny Sexton.

"Picamoles is France's Sergio Parisse. When he plays well, France play well," said former Ireland flanker Ferris.

"We must aim to turn one of their strengths into a weakness on the day."

Ferris feels that the Irish back row trio of CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip are "more than capable" of shutting down the running and off-loading presence of the Northampton number eight.

Picamoles has been blasting through tackles almost at will thus far in the Six Nations and his ability to find onrushing team-mates with accurate passes has also been a factor in France's promising start to this year's tournament.

The French looked likely winners in their opener at Twickenham before losing out 19-16 to England and Guy Noves' side then held off Scotland 22-16 in Paris last time out.

Ireland in the 2017 Six Nations
Saturday, 4 February, Scotland 27-22 Ireland
Saturday, 11 February, Italy 10-63 Ireland
Saturday, 25 February, 16:50 GMT: Ireland v France
Friday, 10 March, 20:05 GMT: Wales v Ireland
Saturday, 18 March, 17:00 GMT: Ireland v England

"CJ Stander, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip will not be scared of Picamoles," added Ferris, who won 36 caps for Ireland between 2006-2012 before being forced to retire because of an ankle injury.

"They've played against him many times and in different competitions. If you can keep their key players quiet, you will go a long way to winning the game."

Former British & Irish Lion Ferris adds that Ireland captain Rory Best and props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong face an important task in competing against France front-row trio Cyril Baille, Guilhem Guirado and Rabah Slimani.

"The set-piece is going to be massive. They have a big front row. We need to get parity there.

"Overall, I think it's going to be an incredibly physical game. France look a lot fitter this year and their players are getting around the pitch a lot more.

"In France's game against Scotland, I don't know how many Head Injury Assessments there were - boys coming off left, right and centre."

Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton is Ireland's third-highest points scorer of all time

Sexton 'power plays' can test French

Ferris also expects Sexton to have a number of set moves prepared to test the French defence.

"With Johnny playing 10, I'm sure Joe Schmidt will have a couple of power plays up his sleeve to breaks these guys.

"Overall, I think Ireland are playing good rugby. Apart from that opening 25 or 30 minutes at Murrayfield, they have been playing some tremendous stuff.

"So for me, it's going to be an Ireland victory. They are going to have to work hard for it. It's not going to be one of those games when you can just turn up and France fold.

"It's going to be a tough ask but it's going to be all about of getting parity up front, getting front-foot ball and working them through the phases."

Six Nations table
PlayedWonDrawnLostForAgainstBonus PtsPoints
1. England2200403208
2. Ireland2101853726
3. Wales2101492815
4. France2101383515
5. Scotland2101434415
6. Italy2002179600

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