The two teams were among the big favorites for the world title last fall, but they were eliminated in the quarter-finals, by New Zealand for the XV du Trèfle (28-24) and South Africa for the Blues (29-28). “We had time to think about it again, to understand a little better what happened, how we could have done better,” Easterby said during an online press conference from Portugal, where Ireland began its preparation this week for its entry into the Tournament against France.
“It’s a match that would have made a great World Cup final,” he added. “That was not the case, but we now have a consolation prize by facing each other from the start.” The former international third row expects “a hostile atmosphere” at the Marseille Vélodrome, “a stadium that most (Irish) players do not know”.
The absences in the French camp, between the impasse made by Antoine Dupont to concentrate on rugby sevens with a view to the Olympics and the recent injuries to Anthony Jelonch and Emmanuel Meafou, do not change much, according to him . “They are missing a few players, but that’s also our case,” recalled Andy Farrell’s assistant. “Look at what they have available: Lucu and Jalibert are tearing it up with Bordeaux, the same for Ramos in Toulouse. Alldritt returned after a break and appears to be in good shape.