Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


France v Scotland, Six Nations 2019: Match Preview pt I

KO 2.15 at Stade de France
Saturday 23rd February 2019

Live on BBC1

There’s no question that the last 4 years have seen a fairly significant upturn in Scotland’s fortunes. That has largely been based on some excellent home form though – away days have proved much more challenging.

The dark blues have won 5 and lost 5 in Rome but against the other members of the old Five Nations there have been just 2 victories in 38 attempts away from home in the Six Nations era.

Scotland’s most recent away wins against the other members of the old Five Nations:

Ireland 20th March 2010
Wales 6th February 2002
France 10th April 1999
England 5th March 1983

It’s never easy to travel and win but England, Ireland and Wales have managed to return from Paris with a combined 12 victories (in 30 games) since 2000. A significant triumph on the road is the next step in Scotland’s development if they really want to be contending with the top teams.

France Scouting Report


France’s numbers don’t really make sense. In attack they have run wild in their opening two fixtures in this season’s Six Nations.

  • Carried the ball for 1,044m – more than 200m than anyone else in the tournament.
  • 28 clean breaks – the most of any of the Six Nations.
  • 54 defenders beaten – equal highest alongside Ireland.

Even in defence they have missed fewer tackles (30) than any of the other teams. Yet somehow what that adds up to is only scoring 3 tries themselves (the lowest tally in the Six Nations) while conceding the most tries of any team in the tournament – 9.

The worry for Scotland will be that the nonsensical French are brilliantly bonkers this weekend rather than just the rather disorganised rabble that has played much of the championship so far. 3 wins in their last 19 Test matches does suggest this is a deep-seated malaise rather than something the French can simply snap out of with a spirited performance though.

Offloading goals

France 2019 are in major “chuck the ball about” mode. In the first two rounds of the tournament they’ve thrown 33 offloads – which is 6 more than England, Ireland and Wales combined. It’s the kind of tactic (and attitude) that can lead to magnificent scores. It’s also very high risk, leading to France turning the ball over more than any of the other sides.

Scotland’s defence will need to be alert because while the initial surges may come from big men trying to overpower the line, once things start to break up a bit the French will be looking to keep the ball alive at every opportunity. The defenders in dark blue will tested in very different ways from their last outing against Ireland.

Danger Man

Antoine Dupont ripped it up when he came on against England and while he lacks experience his presence means a profoundly more dangerous French attack this weekend. At Twickenham – in just 34 minutes – the 22 year old Toulouse scrum half had:

  • 11 carries for 78m;
  • 5 clean breaks;
  • 9 defenders beaten / tackles broken;
  • and 4 offloads.

By comparison across his two starts Morgan Parra only made 8 carries for 13 metres with 0 clean breaks and 0 defenders beaten.

Dupont has scored 7 tries in 11 games for Toulouse this season (granted his hat-trick v Perpignan came from stand off). In a similar fashion to George Horne he is making the scrum half position one of the most consistently dangerous to attack / provide support from on the rugby pitch. Scotland will need to shut down France’s number 9 at source if they want to contain Les Bleus’ attack.


  • France have only succeeded with 38% of their kicks at goal this season.
  • Louis Picamoles has dominated the attacking workload in the French pack. He’s notched 34 carries for 110m while his flankers combined have only made 25 for 64m .
  • France have stolen 5 lineouts which is equal best in the championship (meanwhile Scotland are the only side who have yet to nick a single one of their opponents’ throws).

Previous results

This will be the 10th time the two sides have met in Paris for a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:


Most recent meeting at Stade de France:

France 22 – 16 Scotland

Significant stat
160 – metres made with ball in hand by the French back row. That was more than their wings + full back combined – even with all the easy metres they pick up on kick returns! The loose forwards consistently broke the Scottish defensive line and provided go forward and front foot ball that kept the dark blues under pressure for most of the match.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.


Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referee 1: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referee 2: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

After Mr. Pearce in Round 1 there’s another Six Nations’ debutant for a Scotland match in the shape of former Racing 92 scrum half Mr. Berry. The Australian official is another of the new breed of refs being fast tracked through the system to replace veterans like Nigel Owens and Wayne Barnes. Expect to see a lot more of the likes of Mr. Berry in the next RWC cycle.

For the second game running a couple of the match officials were involved in Scotland’s opponents’ previous game. Mr. Owens was the ref and Mr. Brace AR1 for France’s clash with England at Twickenham. While the rest of their game was a mess French discipline was actually pretty reasonable with just 6 penalties conceded. If anything the officials will be coming into the game with fairly positive expectations of the hosts.

Scotland’s previous games with Mr. Berry in charge:

  • 2017 – beat Samoa (H)
    Penalties: 18 (For 9 – 9 Against)
    Cards: none

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.

12 Responses

  1. Great weather forecast for Saturday. A sunny almost spring day in Paris. Run the French forwards off their feet.
    For me : Dell McInally Berghan Toolis Gilchrist Bradbury Ritchie Strauss Laidlaw Hastings Maitland Johnson Johnstone Seymour Kinghorn
    Time for young Hastings to be given a real opportunity at stand off in Finns absence.
    Up against a rookie 19 year old out of position.

    1. Ntmack isn’t out of position. He is a 10 who played 12. As to novice he has more appearances for Toulouse than Hastings has for Glasgow.

      Not that we will Not I e him as we will be to busy chasing Dupont’s shadow and wondering where Laidlaw was

  2. Most people I expect will pick Horne at 10 but I think that’s a mistake.
    Horne is a skillful footballer at 12 and a great addition to the bench, but considering how denuded we are by injuries we should reset expectations and use the remaining 6N fixtures to develop back up combinations in the knowledge players will return for the RWC.
    And Hastings is the heir apparent.
    He needs the game time.
    In fact, despite injuries we can field the bulk of the team who battered Argentina in June and I think that’s what we should do with the addition of a few old hands.
    We should stick with the quick game and focus on scoring tries and you never know.
    I suspect it could be an open game.

  3. Yep, it is going to be an interesting selection either way for Scotland. I’d throw caution to the wind and play Hastings. There’s a need to look to the future and Horne isn’t going to be the 10 under any other circumstances than an injury crisis.

    The fun thing about Rugby Union is how unpredictable it can be. My gut feeling is that France are going to pull themselves together and with home advantage and the number of first choice players missing from Scotland team…they may well defy us again. but this could so easily go either way…

  4. Those attacking stats highlight the quality in the team, and the danger if tackles are missed or bad passes are thrown.

    The lack of conversion highlights the low level of team cohesion…defence wise it might be best not to overcommit and wait for an error.

    1. And having conceded the most tries their defence seems to be suffering from the same issue. Let’s hope it doesn’t click on Saturday. If we can get quick ball we should be expecting gaps to appear in their defence. Gutting that Hogg isn’t available as he’s world class at spotting mismatches and hitting a gap. Russell is also good at putting others through a gap and we’ll miss that. I’m not sure who’s better to replace him in that regard, Hastings or Horne.

      Whoever we pick, I’m expecting a tryfest and hoping it’s a 5 pointer for us come full time!

  5. I see that Duncan Weir has been sent back to his club just couple of days after being called up. Obviously not on Toony’s Christmas card list?

    1. I envisage he will have got a fee for joining the training camp, or a flat payment for being in the 6 naions squad? Maybe Stu2 is up to date with current rates ?

  6. Just rewatched these highlights from two years ago. Totally forgot about some of the key areas. What a missed opportunity. Another tale of woe from the long list of tales of woe. Laidlaw went off which didn’t help although that didn’t lose us the match. Hogg missed a good chance to keep Ficko out. Doubt he’d do that now. We seem more solid in defence in general. Not discounting madness against Ireland on two occasions last time out. But Russell’s missed conversion was a biggy. It cost us massively. No idea how it’s going to go on Saturday. I was much more confident last week after watching England take the French apart but not so much now with injuries and hearing stuff coming from both camps. We still have enough to do it though and injuries are no excuse here. Time to be disciplined in defence and take most of our chances in attack. Time to step up and make our way back to title contenders again this year.

  7. Definitely more nervous after reading this. Thanks guys !

    Should be a cracking open game. Hoping for a narrow victory on the back of 30+ points for both sides. Lets enjoy it !

    I was there in 99. Had barely tottered down the steep gantry at Stade de France with the beers before N’Tamack senior scored that absolute belter. Hoping for a better start this time but a similar result.

    Great stuff.

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