Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v France: Match Preview Pt II – head to heads

Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend Scotland - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Gregor Townsend has made 6 alterations to his starting XV for the Scotland v France clash at Murrayfield. Across his 8 matches in charge the head coach has averaged 7 changes per game with a high of 12 – from Australia (A) to Fiji (A) and also from Fiji (A) to Samoa (H) – and a low of 2 – from Samoa (H) to New Zealand (H). Has Toony selected the right group to flay the French?

Tale of the tape

57   Tries   16
230   Total caps   97
112   6N caps  54
27.9   Average age   27.8

891kg   Pack weight   895kg
221   Total caps  166
92   6N caps   78
27.9   Average age   26.6

119   Total caps   117
50   6N caps   49
27.4   Average age   26.3

Scotland changes from last Test (v Wales)

  • 12/13 – Horne for Harris (with Jones moving from 12 to 13)
    [+] second playmaker; additional option for kicking from hand; experience; Jones back in his best position.
  • 11 – Maitland for McGuigan
    [+] positioning; second full back; experience.
  • 9 – Laidlaw for Price
    [=] leadership – Scotland captain until his injury last season; steadying / controlling influence; goal kicking.
  • 3 – Berghan for Welsh
    [+] higher work rate around the pitch; Welsh can be more effective in a 20 minute spell from the bench.
  • 4 – Gilchrist for Toolis
    [=] better in the tight exchanges; leadership – Vern Cotter’s original choice for Scotland captain
  • 8 – Wilson for Du Preez
    [+] work rate; leadership – current captain of Glasgow.


15 Stuart Hogg
14 T. Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Peter Horne
11 Sean Maitland
10 Finn Russell
9 Greig Laidlaw
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV France
ADV France
ADV Scotland
15 Geoffrey Palis
14 Teddy Thomas
13 Remi Lamerat
12 G. Dumayrou
11 Virimi Vakatawa
10 Lionel Beauxis
9 M. Machenaud

1 Gordon Reid
2 Stuart McInally
3 Simon Berghan
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay
7 Hamish Watson
8 Ryan Wilson

ADV France
ADV France
ADV France
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

1 Jefferson Poirot
2 G. Guirado (c)
3 Rabah Slimani
4 Arthur Iturria
5 S. Vahaamahina
6 Wenceslas Lauret
7 Yacouba Camara
8 Marco Tauleigne

16 Scott Lawson
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Jon Welsh
19 Ben Toolis
20 David Denton
21 Ali Price
22 Chris Harris
23 Blair Kinghorn

ADV France
ADV France
ADV France
ADV Scotland
ADV France
ADV Scotland
ADV France
ADV Scotland

16 Adrien Pelissie
17 Eddy Ben Arous
18 C. Gomes Sa
19 P. Gabrillagues
20 Louis Picamoles
21 Baptiste Serin
22 Anthony Belleau
23 Benjamin Fall


Backs – advantage Scotland
Both sides have pace and attacking talent to burn in the back 3 – but it will mean little without a consistent supply of decent ball. With Remi Lamerat the only ‘big’ (100kg+ centre) it should be more about guile than bosh in the midfield. Ultimately though the most influential men will be the half backs. France will be wary of the mercurial Finn Russell – but will his rough edges be smoothed out or removed altogether by Greig Laidlaw? The combative scrum half will undoubtedly look to take more responsibility on himself. Scotland will be conscious that the booming boot of Lionel Beauxis will put the French in the areas of the pitch their large pack can take advantage of.

Forwards – advantage France
The French have an outstanding front row – but with the way the scrum is refereed these days they weren’t able to make much of their advantage in this area against Ireland. The Scottish scrum will just be looking to get a close as possible to parity at the set piece. The back 5 of respective packs are filled with players who have a huge workrate. There will be very little between them and very little space. It will come down to who can get more right (and keep the error count down) on the day.

Subs – advantage France
It’s more of the same for the replacement front rows although there is probably less of a gulf between the replacements than the starting units. Each side’s key game changer is likely to reflect the way the two nations want to play the game. France will bring Louis Picamoles on to add yet more power to run over Scotland in attack and squeeze the life out of them in defence. When Scotland introduce Ali Price it will most likely be with a view to increasing the tempo and taking advantage of running against tired forwards.


– 17 of the 46 players were on duty the for the last Scotland v France encounter at Murrayfield in 2016.

– The Scotland starting XV has 118 more caps than the group that kicked off the 6 Nations against Wales (451 v 333).

– Blair Kinghorn will become 10th player to make his Scotland debut under Gregor Townsend. That’s closing in on the 12 first caps handed out by predecessor Vern Cotter in his opening season in charge (the equivalent numbers for Scott Johnson and Andy Robinson were 15 and 5 respectively).

– Geoffrey Doumayrou will be the 9th French player to make his 6 Nations debut in this campaign. Kinghorn will be the 5th Scottish player to achieve the same feat.


19 Responses

  1. On the basis that Forwards win matches, with Backs dictating by how much, the Scottish pack will have to play like men possessed even to gain parity. Scotland need to avoid scrummaging, at all cost, particularly as their bench is a significant downgrade from the starting front row.
    The weather forecast for Sunday is for a wind-chill of minus 4 which will make handling difficult with cold fingers. On days like that 9 and 10 man rugby is the safer option.

  2. After announcing his 6N squad, Townsend mentioned George Horne still had things to work on in his game. Anyone any idea what those things might be? Can he box kick? Because I’m struggling to see where he’s lacking.

    1. I think he need to work on his decision making. He is an excellent passer, he’s quick and elusive, and can box kick, but he can sometimes take the wrong option.

      He will develop into a top quality SH but he’s not there yet.

  3. How much will home advantage count for? France has a reputation for not travelling so well (but so does Scotland now). Let’s hope the first few plays go well and the Murrayfield crowd gets right behind the team to give them a bit of confidence.

  4. I can’t bear to even contemplate losing this game. Would be a true disaster as we’d be back to square one definitively. Please don’t “Scotland” this up, Scotland /o

    I was one of the unlucky souls in the Cardiff cauldron last week. A true modern day Flodden as an enormous host of Scots filled with confidence travelled South and promptly got our ar*es handed to us. Talk about hubris. I don’t think my heart can take another disappointment like that.

  5. I’d argue having Teddy Thomas in your side is an advantage over having Seymour in your side on current form. In his first 9 test matches he has 6 tries and has scored against the likes of Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. May be young but i’d still rather have in my side right now over Seymour.

    1. Yes. Seymour is awful. Despite you being able to actually identify anything he did that was awful… Good for you for sticking to your guns even though you’re blatantly wrong. Worth it!

    2. I would not argue with your point , I suspect the selection is based on his test experience however I could accept Seymour has become complacent . Thomas has loads of potential, Seymour is at his peak and used to dreich scottish weather.

    3. To add a little bit on my thinking for the Seymour / Thomas call:

      It’s taken the Frenchman 4 seasons to amass those 9 caps. 4 of his 6 tries came in his first 2 games including a hat-trick on debut against Fiji. He’s effectively a second time around international rookie.

      Seymour is far superior in the air; has more of a kicking game; same for passing / link up play. Thomas is quicker but Seymour is better at breaking through tackles. Neither is perfect at protecting the ball but Thomas has a definite propensity for conceding turnovers.

      I think Seymour’s ‘slump in form’ has been overplayed somewhat off the back of some high profile errors in the Autumn. He’s continued to score tries and is looking sharp after some weekends off through the winter.

      Thomas is having his best season since he broke through as a 20 year old but I still don’t think it’s controversial to have Seymour ahead on paper.

      1. Seems pretty reasonable to me, Kevin. TT has potential, but Seymour is proven and was one of few players to perform well againot Wales.

    4. How about this as a means of settling it. Thomas is not qualified to play for Scotland so we cannot gain that ADV anyway.

      But we have Huw Jones who has played 11 games with 7 tries , he is circa 100 days younger than Thomas and we gave ADV to the frenchman on that tete a tete .

      So based on your argument Blake, the blog must have called that wrong as well. So if we change both Seymor to Thomas (ADV) and Remi Lamerat to Jones (ADV) they cancel each other out and its evens again,

      .What do you think? Balanced approach no detriment to eitehr side.Now who could argue with that!

  6. Do you remember Vern Cotter’s debut 6 Nations? We picked up the wooden spoon and we stuck by him. I’d suggest that our pool of players are a very difficult challenge vs England, Ireland, France, Wales for a coach on his first attempt. I’d give Townsend the same extension we gave Townsend.

    I’ll be at the game on Sunday with a whisky flask of the finest single malt, and the voice of Zeus. Please boys, show you are the real deal and set up fortress Murrayfield.

    They will target our 10, 12, 13 with Horne so lightweight and proven weak. Jones’ defence is unproven also, he seems a little cowardly taking contact at pace.

    1. I think the big problem is we have moved on from the time Cotter took the side over . We are in a better place, expectations are higher. No question GT played his part in that journey in his role at Glasgow.

      Prior to Cotter we were inconsistent and had limited options in all positions. We depended on a few players and we still do but to a much lesser extent. We are learning to back ourselves and the prop crisis and injuries at Centre show just how sustainable we are.

      We could not cross the line. We are currently 5th in the world rankings and have strong sponsorship and backing.

      Townsend is finding his feet and realistically a country with so few registered players as Scotland is unlikely to become 4th in the short term. However some of the howlers of last week only deepen the concern that things are likely to slip rather than hold or advance short term.

      I suggest that the day we stop depending on a few players and have confidence in our resources is the day we will progress IMO. We are not far away from that time which is positive however last weeks result is fact and a fact that says we are very capable of total meltdown.

  7. Would like to see Bennett involved starting 2 weeks from now, he’s looking sharp enough now.

    Also, how bad is this U20 side, what’s the story there? Absolutely gubbed again tonight.

    1. France always gub us. There players are connected to the clubs and almost all are on professional contracts and play in the Espoirs league, same with England in that regard. Its against Wal,Ire and Italy that I judge the under 20s. Having said that its a poor crop this year Italy have a decent under 20 group this year, it will be the wooden spoon for us.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion