Preview: Scotland v France

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 09:36

SIX NATIONS ROUND TWO: Scotland coach Gregor Townsend will use all of the experience he gained during his five years as a player in France to get inside the heads of 'Les Bleus' this weekend.

The former Brive, Castres and Montpellier fly-half is faced, however, with a near blank playbook ahead of Scotland's Six Nations clash with France in Edinburgh on Sunday.

France are undergoing something of a reformation under recently appointed coach Jacques Brunel, meaning Townsend has little to learn from watching their defeats by Japan, South Africa and New Zealand in November when the since sacked Guy Noves was in charge.

"We've asked ourselves, 'how much do we watch from November', with a different coaching group," said Townsend.

"Obviously there is a certain expectation of the French national team to play a certain way - 'combat' as they call it.

"The set piece, the forward exchanges, the big hits around the tackle area are very important to French rugby players, their supporters and their club coaches."

The Scotland coach said his time in France was "pivotal" in his development as a player and a manager, and he is now up against Brunel who already has international experience from taking charge of Italy between 2011-2016.

"Jacques Brunel is a very experienced coach and you could tell throughout the game last week that France got better the more they were playing together," said Townsend.

"It must be a tough job bringing the French team together from more clubs, different ways of playing, but they look to have improved throughout that 80 minutes which is a good sign for them.

"There are two different psychologies in the French team, from the clubs and from the national team. There is a 'win at all costs' mentality at some clubs."

Townsend will have little more than his knowledge of the French game and a recording of France's last-gasp 13-15 loss to Ireland to help him overcome Scotland's own psychological barrier of a heavy 34-7 loss to Wales in Cardiff during last weekend's opening round of fixtures.

"There were a couple of things from Saturday's game against Ireland which had similar themes that we saw in November," said Townsend.

"One is around competing for the ball post-tackle and that is something that they [France] do more than other teams, so we have got to be very wary of that.

"We are certainly aware that if France get any momentum and confidence they are very, very dangerous. That is when they execute their backline plays, their three-on-twos, better than anyone else in the world.

"If they get an early score their chests go out, their shoulders go back and they can play outstanding rugby."

Townsend added: "If we can make sure that that confidence doesn't come early in the game and we can keep making that work through defending very well, and knocking their big men down - because they have got very big men - they will have to get up off the floor while we've got the ball.

"We will be stressing them with whatever rugby we play, and we'll make sure that they are working harder than they have ever worked before, and that is where we can have the advantage."

Players to watch:

For Scotland: You always look to Stuart Hogg for some magic, Huw Jones as the playmaker and Greig Laidlaw to provide the direction in the backline. John Barclay and Jonny Gray are the key forwards and will need to stay the distance this week.

For France: The decision to move Remi Lamerat to outside centre and bring in Geoffrey Doumayrou on his outside is clearly an attempt to spark a backline that misfired badly last week. However, the most significant move was to bring back Lionel Beauxis at flyhalf. When on song he is a magician.

Head to head: In the midfield there will be an intriguing battle between Huw Jones (Scotland) and Remi Lamerat (France) - two talented players that had a bad day at the office last week. At scrumhalf there is Greig Laidlaw (Scotland) against Maxime Machenaud (France) - two players who mean so much to their respective teams.

Recent results:
 2017: France won 22-16, Paris
2016: Scotland won 29-18, Edinburgh
2015: France won 19-16, Paris
2015: France won 15-8, Paris
2014: France won 19-17, Edinburgh
2013: France won 23-16, Paris
2012: France won 23-17, Edinburgh
2011: France won 34-21, Paris
2010: France won 18-9, Edinburgh
2009: France won 22-13, Paris

Prediction: Both teams will be desperate to bounce back after opening round defeats. Scotland have the home ground advantage and we back them to win by six points.


Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Blair Kinghorn.

France: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Adrien Pelissie, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Louis Picamoles, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Benjamin Fall.

Date: Sunday, February 11
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT; 16.00 France Time)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy with a touch of rain. High of 9°C and a low of 0°C
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com


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Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 5 5 0 0 26
Wales 5 3 0 2 15
Scotland 5 3 0 2 13
France 5 2 0 3 11
England 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 1