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Postcard from Metz: Rain before the heat of battle

France tend to do a whistle-stop tour of the country with their women's team.

During the UEFA Nations League they played in Valenciennes, Rennes and Reims. In June, England will take on Herve Renard's swashbuckling side in Saint-Etienne.

But for the Republic of Ireland it's Metz, the picturesque old garrison town that's pierced by the Moselle River.

Ireland left a rainy, grey Dublin on Wednesday afternoon and flew into a rainy, grey Luxembourg, which is about an hour from Metz.

There's a small army of travelling supporters who've made the journey, and if the weather didn't make them feel at home, a trip to the Le Comptoir Irlandais shop sure will. There are a few dozen of these stores dotted around France, selling Flahavan's Porridge, Barry's Tea and Folláin jam from Cork.

Metz's Le Comptoir Irlandais is tucked into one of the narrow side streets that weave through this lovely city, with its coffee-coloured gothic architecture and open squares.

It's forecast to stay rather gloomy when Ireland train at the Stade Saint-Symphorien stadium - home stadium of FC Metz - on Thursday evening, but the clouds are due to break and the temperature certain to rise ahead of kick-off on Friday night (8.10pm Irish time).

This is a daunting assignment for the Girls in Green. A chunk of the France squad is made up of players from Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, two powerhouses who will collide in the Champions League semi-finals later this month.

From Lyon: the imposing Wendie Renard who marshals the back line with boneshaking authority; Selma Bacha, a silky left-footer who offers width and vision; the hard-running, ruthlessly attack-minded Kadidiatou Diani; marquee striker Eugénie Le Sommer (93 goals for France and counting); and the electrifying

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