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.
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.
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).
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:
L L L L L L L L L
Most recent meeting at Stade de France:
France 22 – 16 Scotland
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)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.