Ireland favourites but France bullish

Fulgence Ouedraogo (AFP)
Fulgence Ouedraogo (AFP)

Cardiff - Ireland are the best team in Europe, but a string of good results have lifted French hopes ahead of Sunday's Pool D decider at the Rugby World Cup, according to flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo.

France, runners-up in 2011, are unbeaten since the beginning of the tournament after taming England in their last warm-up game.

They have, however, not beaten Ireland in four years.

"We have to admit they are the first European nation," Ouedraogo told reporters on Thursday three days before France take on Joe Schmidt's team at the Millennium Stadium.

"They are the favourites for that game. We know their level."

France, who have a history of shining when their backs are against the wall, are confident their lengthy preparations have helped them narrow the gap against a team they have beaten three times in as many World Cup matches.

"We've had a good preparation and having won a few games in a row gives us extra confidence," Ouedraogo said.

"We've also used (in our preparation) past matches against them. We know where we will have to be stronger to beat them."

There will be a few areas where France, who have built their recent results on a strong pack, will need to be extra cautious if they want to record their first win against Ireland since a 26-22 away win in 2011.

"Their wingers and their fullbacks are very good on high balls," Ouedraogo said.

"But they are also good at putting the pressure with their kicking game, especially Jonathan Sexton who is very accurate."

The losers will almost certainly face New Zealand and the winners will probably take on Argentina for a place in the semi-finals.

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