THE SIX NATIONS gets under way today with Ireland facing France in their tournament opener.
Joe Schmidt's men will be looking to get their campaign off to a winning start given their recent record against the French, who have won only one of the last seven meetings between the sides.
Ireland meanwhile have won four of those meetings, including the clash at the Aviva Stadium in last year's tournament, and will want to get off to a winning start to put the pressure on champions England, who travel to Italy on Sunday.
Where is the match?
The match is at the Stade de France. Ireland narrowly lost there two years ago, 10-9, but won 22-20 on their previous visit in 2014.
When is the match?
Kick-off is at 4.45pm today (Saturday, February 3).
How can I watch it?
The match is on BBC One with coverage from 4.15pm, and can also be viewed on the BBC website and BBC Sport app.
In Ireland, TV3 has taken over from RTÉ as Six Nations broadcasters.
Their coverage starts at 1pm with the Wales v Scotland game (kick-off 2.15pm).
Ireland’s @SixNationsRugby 2018 season starts tomorrow.
Every single #NatWest6Nations game is live on @TV3Ireland.
It all kicks off tomorrow from 1pm – we’re ready… are you?#TV3Rugby pic.twitter.com/J0WPVHuSe4
— TV3 (@TV3Ireland) February 2, 2018
What are the match odds?
Ireland head into the match as 4/9 favourites, unsurprising given their recent form.
Schmidt's men have won nine of their last 11 games stretching back to the beginning of 2017.
The only blots on the copybook were the defeat to Wales and unexpected loss to Scotland in last year's tournament.
However their current seven-game winning run includes a victory over champions England in last year's tournament to deny them a Grand Slam, and more recently a thumping defeat of South Africa.
Ireland trounced the Springboks in a record four-try 38-3 win in the November Series match.
France meanwhile are on a seven-game losing streak, reflected in the home side's 5/2 odds.
Their last win was at home to Wales in last year's tournament.
A draw is priced at 25/1.
How will the teams line out?
Ireland have handed Six Nations debuts to three players – Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and James Ryan.
There are three changes to the side that defeated Argentina in the final game of November Series, with Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw returning to the back-line and Josh van der Flier replacing the injured Sean O'Brien at openside flanker.
France meanwhile have six uncapped players in their side, including Bordeaux's 19-year-old prodigy Matthieu Jalibert, who will become the youngest fly-half to start a Five or Six Nations game for France.
Ireland: Kearney; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (capt), Furlong; Henderson, James Ryan; O'Mahony, Van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Cronin, J McGrath, John Ryan, Toner, Leavy, L McGrath, Carbery, McFadden.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 1, 2018
France: Palis; Thomas, Lamerat, Chavancy, Vakatawa; Jalibert, Machenaud; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Gourdon.
Replacements: Pelissie, Priso, Gomes Sa, Gabrillagues, Tauleigne, Dupont, Belleau, Fall.
? Les Bleus sont #PrêtsAuCombat ! Découvrez la composition de l’équipe désignée par le sélectionneur Jacques Brunel et son staff pour affronter l’Irlande samedi au @StadeFrance ! #soutiensleXV #FRAIRL pic.twitter.com/vazmm3GdTm
— FF Rugby (@FFRugby) February 1, 2018
From an objective point of view, the signs point to an Ireland victory.
Given the respective recent form of both sides, Ireland's recent record against France and the transitional period the hosts find themselves in under new coach Jacques Brunel, it's easy to concur with the bookies' verdict.
However Ireland's away form is patchy, while they carry the favourites tag uncomfortably. Just look at last year's opener at Murrayfield, when pre-tournament optimism was dashed over 80 minutes, handing England a massive boost before they had even kicked a ball.
Ireland also failed to win their opener the previous year, when they were defending champions, while France, for all their woes, are built on an impressive domestic foundation.
Schmidt though has batted away all talk of Ireland as tournament favourites, something that should focus a side that boasts considerable strength in depth.
Ireland's youngest Six Nations squad could possess a precociousness to temper any pre-tournament doubts that have affected the squad in previous years.