Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


France vs Scotland: The Teams

Scotland’s first away game of the 2017 Six Nations takes them to Paris, a city where they have not won since 1999 – when the Six Nations was the Five Nations.

Vern Cotter has made only very minor changes, with the same back division retained to try and unpick the French defence.

Up front the props are also unchanged and Brown retained at hooker, which leaves all the heft on the bench to be broken out in case of emergency. I suppose it gives Scotland a balance of power and pace to bring on (in different areas) to see how the French cope.

A late change to the back row – Ryan Wilson has an elbow infection – sees John Hardie yanked out of the Edinburgh team to sit the bench while John Barclay starts. As expected the Gray boys pack down in the boilerhouse.

Continuity is great for building a team and for all the talk of winning home games you can be sure Vern will have a plan for this team to win the game.

Scotland team: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Sean Maitland, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Tommy Seymour, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw (capt); 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Jonny Gray, 5. Richie Gray, 6. John Barclay, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Josh Strauss
Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. John Hardie, 21. Ali Price, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Mark Bennett

France have made one change to their wrecking ball of a starting XV, bringing in Loann Goujon for Damien Chouly. On the bench Tolofua and Le Devedec come in fresh to the side.

France team: 15. Scott Spedding,  14. Noa Nakaitaci, 13. Remi Lamerat, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Virimi Vakatawa, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Guilhem Guirado (capt), 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Sébastien Vahaamahina, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Loann Goujon, 7. Kevin Gourdon, 8. Louis Picamoles
Replacements: 16. Christopher Tolofua, 17. Rabah Slimani, 18. Xavier Chiocci, 19. Julien Le Devedec, 20. Damien Chouly, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Jean-Marc Doussain, 23. Yoann Huget

This game will be about tempo, and everyone knows it.

41 Responses

  1. Great strength in depth regarding the back-row! Surprised maybe not to see CDP brought in, but I suppose his no-show vs Munster last friday wouldn’t have done wonders for his case. Brilliant to see Hardie back, amazing to think this time last year he was in a fair few Lions XV’s now it’s hard to see how he’ll crack the Scotland XV unless further injuries.

    Hope we run their fatties à la Glasgow. Can see us taking this one. Scotland by 7+ IMO

  2. I had Scotland by 6 last week so going Scotland by 10 this week lines up like the racing vs Glasgow game just hope for the same result

  3. Wilson is a big loss as he’s an aggressive defender and decent if not destructive ball carrier. No ball-carrying replacement for Strauss so he’s going to have to go the whole 80. Really unfortunate that CdP form isn’t great as he’d be a more useful option on the bench. Can’t believe I’m saying it but I’d have been tempted to start Harley at 6 with Barclay to come on, but glad Cotter has the balls to go out and play our style instead of trying to nullify their strengths. Hopefully Hardie will come on and go full berserker.

    Not much to add, our approach is obvious. If we can be as clinical as last week we’ll win. I think France will give us more opportunities than Ireland did and although they look far more dangerous than last year they can be wasteful. Just hope Jones’ defence is up to cop this time round as Lamerat is a bit of a beast.

    1. Might see Swino coming off the bench into the back row as well, pretty sure we played with a back row of Barclay, Hardie and Watson for half an hour v Australia as well so we do have options if Strauss needs to come off.

      Hoping for a nice, dry day in Paris so we can run them about a lot from the start and minimise knock ons.

      Looking forward to this!

      Du Preez missing even from the Edinburgh side along with Gilchrist. Wonder if travelling to Paris as cover or dropped completely? Ditto for Duncan Taylor.

      On a side note, all of our top level expats not in the 23 are in action for their clubs which is good to see. Jackson and Timbo starting for Quins and Welsh packs down for Newcastle. Scott, Denton and Hastings on the bench for Glous and Bath also!

      1. Yup, it’ll be Swinson covering 8 if we need a second back-row replacement. Presumably the feeling is that his form trumps Harley’s ability to cover second & back row.

    2. CDP hasn’t really done enough for Edinburgh to suggest he should be in ahead of Hardie. Hardie can be exceptional and already proved he can play international level to a high standard …he had clearly been burnt out before he then got injured. Looks well rested and fit now.

      Id guess Swinson could play 6 & 8 if Strauss gets injured or tires in the 80 mins. I think Swinson is more physically sized for 6 & 8 than he is for lock anyway.

      This Scotland team has recognised it isn’t going have a ball busting no8 style of rugby. We play best with pace and fast off loading. Gregor’s and his coaching team will no doubt take that style even further when they take charge…so much so that I reckon Laidlaw will be benched by the end of year with Ali Price taking over no.9.

      Never going to beat the French based on bulk… we can beat them at the breakdown and in speed of attack and defense tho.

  4. Sorry i’m not as optimistic as most. I really really hope im wrong but I think its going to be a long old afternoon on Sunday, France will have watched the 2nd half v Ireland and taken alot fromtl that. This isn’t the Racing team we’re playing.

  5. Agree that great to see a player of Hardie’s ability be able to be called-up at short notice. Got me thinking… how about this as a 15 who aren’t involved in the match day 23 at all (for one reason or another):

    Dickenson, McInally, Nel, Gilchrist, Toolis, Wilson, Harley, Denton; Pyrgos, Horne, Hoyland, Taylor, Scott, Visser, Kinghorn

    A bit light in the 2nd row (maybe Big Jim could still be eligible for this team!) – but i reckon it would beat most Scotland first 15s of recent times.

    1. It’s not awful, is it? I think it shows we have backups who are of the standard we’ve been used to, but our top team have just that little bit extra in terms of class…

      1. I think it is remarkable when you look at our midfield in particular. In guys like Parks, Henderson and Morrison we had players who would give their all, but were unlikely to pull off a game breaking move – and they were the first and only names available. Now to think that you have Horne, Scott and Taylor to come back if required (injuries permitting obviously) it is so encouraging.

        The concern is still the lack of competition/experience at 9, 10 and 15 though. Pyrgos and SHC flattered to deceive, and Price hasn’t really had a fair kick at the ball yet. Weir is good, but a fair drop off from Finn, and there is no-one who you feel is pushing Hogg at the moment. Hopefully this will change for the better in the next season or two as Price gets some game time, and the likes of Adam Hastings, Josh Henderson and Kinghorn mature.

      2. Ade – I believe Conor Eastgate is highly rate in the u20s too. He’s in the wasps academy.

        We’ve now had two years if u20s with excellent props so hopefully our national shortage is over.

      3. FF – which makes the interest in Oli Kebble slightly puzzling for me. As a project player he will have to do his residency time, so that is him tied for 3 years.

        He is the same age as Dell, so still maturing as a prop, and in the meantime we have a couple more years of the Academies turning out Scots-qualified props. If he is as good as reported I wouldn’t turn him away, but I do wonder where he will fit in.

      4. Do you reckon they’ve got their eye on Taylor or Jones to cover 15? BVC went out his way to point out Jones could play 15, and there’s no way a footballer like Taylor couldn’t thrive there.

      5. Yes I also think Hastings and Kinghorn (barring injury) will be next up for 10 & 15. There is a clear age & experience gap there tho..
        A large bunch of guys from that U20 team, which was a really good team I thought, looked like they were stick ons for international level. Encouraged that we are clearly doing something right in player development finally.

    2. Yeah we have a much higher standard of replacement than we have for a long time…parts of that team are close to 1st team level and some not so much.

    1. Glasgow have been woeful this year when the internationals have been on so the more non Sq good players the better.

  6. I find myself apprehensive about this game, I think France will be hurting after last weekend and will come out all guns blazing. That said if we defend like we did against Ireland and tire them out we’ll have the space later in the game to hopefully exploit (and I have doubts over their defence out wide).

    Should be a cracker with no more than a converted try between the sides.

  7. That’s a real shame for Wilson. I think he has been in excellent form this season, and worked his socks off last week. Still, it is remarkable that we can bring in a player of Hardie’s class – he may not have been ripping up trees as he did initially in a Scotland jersey, but I think that was down to overwork and injury. Like Huw Jones he will get better with minutes on the pitch.

    We have a decent chance in Paris, but it will take a similar effort to last week. France have got some very talented players, and they are not all fatties. Picamoles is in the shape of his life having had a year or so at Saints. The other back row, Gourdon, also looks to be quite tidy. The young 9 Serin is very tasty – looks very sharp, and with guys like Fickou and the two wingers they have the capacity to hurt us. Maybe one area we can exert pressure is on Lopez at 10. He is a good player, but strikes me as one who can drift out of games if they aren’t going his way.

    Anyway, in Vern we Trust. Come on Scotland!!

  8. Shame for Wilson yes but I reckon the biggest significant thing for this week is Barclay and Watson playing together. It’ll be absolute carnage for The French. They’ll not know how to counter those two working together. And then Hardie to come on to whoever tires first to do more of the same. It’ll be poetry in motion. Watson taking the extra yards with his eel like tendancies and Barclay turning over the French. They’ll be relentless and it’ll be the difference.

  9. Wilson seems to be a big favorite of Cotter and I wouldn’t doubt the boss, he knows his stuff. loss at the line-out and leaves the back row possibly a bit undersized. Hopefully the big French carriers don’t leave them too busted-up, though it’s very reassuring to have the excellent Hardie to come on…but again relatively small.

    Finn had a shaky time in this fixture 2 years ago and got injured early against them least year. If he has another shaky day then I’d consider brining in Dan Parks as a backs coach to work on playing a structured, disciplined game with clever tactical kicking from hand.

    1. I thought Finn had a good game against them last time in Paris, it was his maiden 6 nations game yes? Seem to remember a few nice offloads, tackles and even a turnover?

  10. Feeling sorry for Wilson – he must be gutted – but Barclay starting with Hardie on the bench is excellent compensation.
    Weather forecast for Paris is dry for Sat and Sun and actually quite warm on Sunday. Remember when it was those conditions that often favoured France sides in Paris? Mind you, the pitch still might be a midden and I can’t find any reports of its current condition.
    Like others, I’m apprehensive about this Test, but I honestly feel this is the best side we’ve had in 18 years and therefore the best chance of a win since that glorious, sunlit day in April 1999.
    Come on, Scotland!

    1. Feel apprehensive, of course. But like you say this is the best side we’ve had in years – worse sides than this have come close in Paris. If anyone has a chance they do!

  11. Keep thinking about the Glasgow v Racing Metro games, they were blown away & could not cope with the Glasgow running game.

    The French will have to be disciplined they can’t kick the ball to Hogg, but they risk getting turned over if they attempt to keep it tight (discipline not a French strength).

    Hope they forget Huw Jones….

    A Scottish start like last weekend would force the French to play, may be entertaining………

  12. Ade 544pm – Kebble may very well be a “new Nel”, in 3 years time when Nel bows out we’ll have a carbon copy to step in. 20st of South African muscle is always handy.

      1. That change can’t come soon enough. Use of project players is an embarrassment. (Though Nel et al are of course very welcome!)

      2. I would imagine that if it does change to five years, players already “in country” will remain on the 3 year rule. Would be harsh on, for example, DuPreez to tell him “sorry mate, you’ll have to wait two more years”

      3. Absolutely. They clearly couldn’t – or certainly shouldn’t – shift the posts for those already capped.

      4. Capped players would be safe…qualified but uncapped probs not…so I reckon we’ll see a flurry of caps from several nations come 5th game…Failing that, doubt any new ruling will be in place before summer tour.

        Anyone 2 years in looking for a RWC spot? They might suffer.

      5. I believe a vote is to be held at a World Rugby meeting in May. Whether that means any rule changes are implemented immediately I have no ideA, but it does mean this 6N may be the last opportunity to capture any eligible project players like Du Preez, after May the qualifying period may be 5 years. If so it will also affect players like Bundee Aki and Tyker Bleyendaal for Ireland.

      6. I’m sure it will become 5 years from a stated date going forward, but World Rugby will have to allow those who have already started, or indeed completed the qualification period to stick with three years. It can’t be retrospective.
        I agree wholeheartedly with the lengthening of the period.

  13. Feeling confident. As confident at Toonie. This is our year.

    Hardie, Swinson, Bennett, Price and Ford on the bench is phenomenal all injuries considered.

    This game is about tempo. Everyone knows it.

  14. Good call from Telfer in the paper today – kick long and often and make the French fatties keep turning and running back. ( This tactic assumes we tackle the French back three of course ).
    If we’re in it around the last quarter of an hour we can win it.

  15. Parks was an excellent kicker but I’m not sure you’d “want” to coach Russell too much, he’s instinctive & plays whats in front of him, he’ll get better with more experience (probably)

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion