By then England will have played – and probably beaten – Italy. Unusually, they will be backing France with great fervour.
If it is a victory for France or, better still, the third draw in a row between France and Ireland, England will rejoice at winning the Championship, which they probably deserve, for after all they were a better side than France who scored more points than they did when they met this year.
A win for Ireland will probably secure them the Championship on points’ difference, unless England have a huge win over Italy.
France must have a chance of winning, too, but it would take a miracle of gigantic proportions, like moving Montmatre. Italy would have to beat England for starters and France would have to beat Ireland.
In the Six Nations, Ireland have scored 81 more points than their opponents in their four matches, England 32 points more and France three points more.
To top Ireland, England would have to beat Italy by more than 49 points, which is not impossible.
By the time the Paris match gets under way, the England position will be clear. Let’s say that both France and Ireland are equally intent on victory and that Ireland need only to win to win the Championship and burst out with three days of celebration ending on St Patrick’s Day.
That could produce a great match.
There would then be an intense battle up front. At the scrums, there would be a great battle between the front rows and one hopes that the surface of Stade de France can stand up to it better than when they played Italy there. The battle at the scrums has a huge effect on team morale and loose forward agility.
In an equal battle between loose forwards, Ireland could well have the beating of France, especially now that marauding Peter O’Mahony is back. Big Louis Picamoles is back, on the flank this time, but more of a muscle man than a clever poacher. In fact Ireland have a better record at the breakdowns in this year’s Six Nations.
They also have a better record at the line-outs, losing just four out of 61 throws into the line-out. Out of 10 line-outs against Scotland France lost three and threw in skew three times. But then Brice Mach has been dropped right out and Dimitri Szarzewski is hooking with Guilhem Guirado to back him up.
Ireland have the much more settled pair of halfbacks in Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray while France have chopped and changed. One would expect Ireland to be better here with Sexton to dictate play. France will be hoping for a more charismatic performance from Rémi Tales after the shyness of Julien Plisson.
In the backs Ireland pass more than France who kick more than Ireland but there is in the outside backs speed and creativity if it is allowed to function though here, too, Ireland look more settled and cohesive. Ireland have scored 13 tries to the seven of France.
Discipline counts. Ireland have conceded under seven penalties a match on an average, France more than eight.
Goal-kicking counts. Sexton is a more reliable kicker than France’s Maxime Machenaud, Jean-Marc Doussain and Rémi Tales. Ireland have goaled 15 out of 19, France 10 out of 15 – 79% vs 67%.
2013: France and Ireland drew 13-13, Dublin
2012: France and Ireland drew 17-17, Paris
2011: France won 26-22, Dublin
2011: France won 19-12, Bordeaux
2011: France won 25-22, Dublin
2010: France won 33-10, Paris
2009: Ireland won 30-21, Dublin
2008: France won 26-21, Paris
2007: France won 25-3, Paris (World Cup pool match)
2007: France won 20-17, Dublin
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Rémi Tales, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Louis Picamoles, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé (captain), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 21 Wenceslas Lauret, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Maxime Mermoz.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Paul O’Connell (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Date: Saturday 15 March 2014
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 18.00 (GMT 17.00; 17.00 UK time)
Expected weather: Clear skies with little to no chance of rain. Hi of 15°C and a low of 5°C
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)