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France v Ireland
Pape: Ireland 'best team' in competition
ESPN Staff
March 14, 2014
Pascal Pape in action for France against Scotland © Getty Images
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France will have to beat the "best team" in the competition if they are to win the Six Nations tomorrow, according to captain Pascal Pape.

France play host to Ireland in Paris with both sides still able to win the championship. England, who take on Italy in Rome, are also contenders for the Six Nations title, but Ireland are in the box seat thanks to a superior points difference.

France skipper Pape was full of praise for the Irish. He said: "Ireland are a very nice side, very strong up front, with a good defence and in the tackle

"They are the best team. We are going to try and subdue them and put in a great performance. It is a terrific challenge ahead of us: each one of us will have an experienced player opposing us, of the highest quality."

France have come under fire for a series of disappointing performances during this Six Nations campaign, with head coach Philippe Saint-Andre insisting he is to blame for his side's lacklustre efforts.

But Pape has indicated the squad is ready to pull together. He said: "We all want to produce something memorable. To end the tournament with a victory is our target. As for the criticism, well that is part and parcel of the game.

"We are more focused on our performance than what is said about us. There have been good things during the tournament, it is important that we remember that and don't change everything.

"All that remains is one match against Ireland, probably the in-form team, so it will be a highly-motivated France team who will play at the Stade de France in front of 80,000 supporters. They at least support us"

Saint-Andre has rung the changes for the Ireland clash, swapping four from the side that narrowly defeated Scotland last weekend. Attention has focussed on the first Test start for exciting prospect Gael Fickou, who replaces Maxime Mermoz at inside centre.

Fickou will line up against Brian O'Driscoll in midfield, with the veteran centre retiring from international rugby after tomorrow's fixture. Despite the pressure, Fickou is relishing the chance to test himself against the best.

He said: "I'm very happy. It's also a great pride to make my debut in this context, against Ireland, for the final match of the Six Nations, at the Stade de France and against O'Driscoll. He's an icon in Ireland and has really contributed to his country."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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