Ireland have won only once in Paris since Brian O’Driscoll’s famous hat-trick at the start of this century, but they will run out at Stade de France this weekend as clear favourites.
Joe Schmidt’s team travels on the back of a seven-match winning run that includes a record thrashing of South Africa and the only defeat of an England team coached by Eddie Jones.
In contrast, les Bleus are winless in their last six outings and have a new man in charge after Guy Novès became the first France head coach to be sacked in mid-contract.
Jacques Brunel, who coached Italy from 2011-16, is the new boss and joins the set-up from Bordeaux-Begles.
There is a chasm in Test experience. France field only one player with more than 50 caps in captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado while Ireland have eight, including both half-backs and four tight forwards.
Johnny Sexton, 32, whose 74 Test caps include six for the Lions, will be up against a 19-year-old who hadn’t even started a Top 14 game before this season.
The selection of Bordeaux No 10 Matthieu Jalibert embodies the new direction that France feel they must take after years of underachievement, but it is no reckless gamble; the teenager is tipped for super-stardom, with BT Sport’s Ben Kay calling him “the most exciting talent I’ve ever seen”.