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Ireland v France: There is 'no debate' about the favourites tag

SPOTLIGHT: France flyhalf Romain Ntamack says Ireland are “comfortable favourites” for Saturday’s predicted Six Nations title decider with Ireland in Dublin.

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This weekend’s hosts are top of the World Rugby rankings with Ntamack’s outfit, who won a Grand Slam last year, second. Both sides won their opening games of the tournament.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland eased past Wales last Saturday thanks to a first-half blitz while Les Bleus claimed a 14th straight Test victory by holding on against Italy 24 hours later.

“They are world No.1, it’s not for nothing, they are comfortably favourites,” 33-Test playmaker Ntamack told AFP.

“There’s no debate. They showed and proved that in round one against Wales.

“They’re good in all areas. They have very few weaknesses, if any. It’s going to be an arm wrestle for 80 minutes,” he added.

This year’s Six Nations has the shadow of the Rugby World Cup looming over it. Hosts France kick off the tournament against three-time winners New Zealand in Paris on September 8.

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Ntamack, 23, played down the pressure of the showpiece event.

“First things first, we’ll be happy to win on Saturday. It would mean that we’re still in line for a second Grand Slam. It’s really the objective,” he said.

“Beyond impressing, beyond thinking about the World Cup, if we want to defend our title and write history, it comes with a win in Ireland,” he added.

At the Stadio Olimpico last Sunday, Ntamack set up two tries for teammates after a personally disappointing November campaign, despite French wins over World Cup holders South Africa, Australia and Japan.

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“Those things happen. I know what I do well, what I do less well,” he said.

“It didn’t stop me sleeping. I’m happy to be back to my best,” he added.

‘Inspiring’

Ntamack, son of former free-running France centre Emile, plays his club rugby for record five-time Champions Cup winners Toulouse as his father did.

Nine of Ireland’s starting team last weekend play for Leinster, who have won that title on four occasions.

“They have played together for a while: 90 percent of them come from Leinster, they’re together for the whole year,” Ntamack said.

“They know each other inside out. They’re great players who are used to playing big games,” he added.

In Rome, Ntamack and Toulouse teammate Antoine Dupont reached a France record of 22 internationals together as a halfback partnership.

At Lansdowne Road they are likely to face 110-time capped flyhalf Johnny Sexton and his fellow Test centurion in No.9 Conor Murray.

“They are players that we admire, who have lasted, despite their age, they’re still performing well,” Ntamack said.

“It shows their efficiency in the Ireland shirt.

“It’s inspiring but it stops there, they are our opponents. Even if we respect them, we will try and beat them when we face them,” he added.

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