Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


France v Scotland, Six Nations 2019: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

It’s just over 12 months since Scotland and France met. Clearly a year is a very long time in the life of a French backline, as not a single one of the seven players who started at Murrayfield will feature at the Stade de France. All in all just 8 of France’s 23 return as they continue to chop and change looking for a winning formula.

The Scottish line-up for last season’s encounter was the Tooniest of the Toony era, featuring 14 out of the 15 players the head coach has started the most during his time in charge*. Injury has robbed Scotland of 6 key men from that last encounter but the team selected still has the capability to pull off a win in Paris. Here’s how they match up:

Tale of the tape

23   Tries   44
95kg   Average weight   93kg
171   Total caps   210
85   6N caps   92
25.0   Average age   28.3

912kg   Pack weight   903kg
18   Tries   14
237   Total caps  168
6N caps   65
27.5   Average age   27.0

101   Total caps   111
6N caps   38
   Tries   6
25.4   Average age   25.4

4 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Ireland)

  • 15 – Kinghorn for Hogg [-]
  • 13 – Grigg for Jones [-]
  • 10 – Horne for Russell [-]
  • 6 – Bradbury for Wilson [=]

15 Thomas Ramos
14 Damian Penaud
13 Mathieu Bastareaud
12 Gael Fickou
11 Yoann Huget
10 Romain Ntamack
9 Antoine Dupont
ADV Scotland
ADV France
ADV France
ADV Scotland
ADV France
15 Blair Kinghorn
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Nick Grigg
12 Sam Johnson
11 Sean Maitland
10 Peter Horne
9 Greig Laidlaw

1 Jefferson Poirot
2 Guilhem Guirado
3 Demba Bamba
4 S. Vahaamahina
5 Felix Lambey
6 Wenceslas Lauret
7 Arthur Iturria
8 Louis Picamoles

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

1 Allan Dell
2 Stuart McInally
3 Simon Berghan
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Jonny Gray
6 Magnus Bradbury
7 Jamie Ritchie
8 Josh Strauss

16 Camille Chat
17 Etienne Falgoux
18 Dorian Aldegheri
19 Paul Willemse
20 Gregory Alldritt
21 Baptiste Serin
22 Anthony Belleau
23 Maxime Medard

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

16 Fraser Brown
17 Alex Allan
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Ben Toolis
20 Gary Graham
21 Ali Price
22 Adam Hastings
23 Darcy Graham


Backs – slight advantage France

With three world class players missing for Scotland it’s testament to the improved strength in depth of the national side that they can continue to put out a backline that should be competitive against the French.

Saying that, all the ins and outs and shuffling of positions can’t have done much for cohesion in the home side’s ranks. Even with a spine of 3 clubmates (Dupont, Ntamack and Ramos from Toulouse) it’s not going to be easy for this group to find the right structures in attack and defence.

Forwards – even

The experiment with the ‘heaviest pack in Test history’ (never officially verified) that took to the field against Wales was quickly abandoned by France’s head coach, Jacques Brunel. Injuries and a desire to develop for the future have lead Les Bleus to a selection where 7 of the 13 forwards in the matchday squad have less than 10 caps.

This is not like the gnarled, battle-hardened units of old and Scotland have to take the game to them with all the aggression they can muster to try and put themselves in the ascendancy.

Subs – advantage Scotland

Both sides’ benches have an experimental feel to them. Nine of the players are playing their first ever Six Nations’ tournament. In a World Cup year though the opportunities are huge for anyone who can grab their chance and put in a performance. If there is one man among the 16 subs whose introduction should provoke a frissson of anticipation it’s Darcy Graham. The Edinburgh winger has made things happen at whatever level he has played at and will almost certainly make a huge impact in the Test arena given a chance. It’s down to the Prince of Hawick whether that happens now, or in the next RWC cycle.


–  This will be the first time Scotland have played a Six Nations’ game without Stuart Hogg since 4th February 2012. Hoggy’s run of 35 consecutive starts in the tournament has been brought to an end before he could overtake Chris Paterson’s record of 38 for the national side.

– With Finn Russell and Huw Jones also missing having played in the dark blues’ last 12 matches the longest streak of Six Nations games among the matchday 23 for Paris belongs to Ali Price who will feature for the 13th successive fixture.

– Three players are in line for their Six Nations’ debuts: Magnus Bradbury, Alex Allan and Darcy Graham. That will take Scottish first-timers in the tournament up to 9 this season.

Sam Johnson and Nick Grigg may be united in the centres for the first time ever for Scotland but they have started together on 16 previous occasions for Glasgow.

– Edinburgh and Glasgow have won 13 and lost 8 of their fixtures against French clubs since 2015. Scottish players have more experience of winning against Gallic opposition than at any other time in the professional era.

* The odd man out was loosehead prop Gordon Reid, with Allan Dell’s 9 starts in the Townsend era being just ahead of Gordy’s 7.

59 Responses

  1. Its interesting that for all the excitement behind Darcy Graham getting a chance you’ve marked Maxime Medard as better.

    Your comparison just goes to show how close on paper this game could be and it could come down to home advantage / our away form.

    I actually think that this game comes down to how well our 9 , 10, 12, 13 go against their 9, 10, 12, 13. If we have a high tackle completion % here and things go our way we have a very good chance. If not then we will have learned a bit more about a few more players.

    1. We could very well be in the odd position of going to Paris and not having our pack well and truly battered.

      If that is the case I think we’ll win because their tyro halfbacks will struggle on the back foot trying to create something out of nothing.

      We have to cut out cheap turnovers though as they will be deadly in a loose broken up game, which we normally revel in but should avoid here.

  2. Question marks all over these heads to heads –

    Seymour’s form may not be great, but still far more experience and pedigree than Penaud.

    Bastareud v Grigg is a huge question mark. The Frenchman may be a Big Basta but he drifts out of games, has been appalling for Toulon this year and he rarely seems to make the most of his size. Grigg is green at this level and make mistakes but also cuts razor sharp lines and creates spectacular tries for Glasgow. Basta can be effective but really not sure how this one will go.

    Fickou v Johnson. Fickou has struggled to live up to his glittering promise at u-20 and Johnson has had a fantastic start to hist test career. Not much clear water between these two either.

    Dupont v Laidlaw. Dupont is going to be a world class star but he’s not yet and whilst he looks great runnign with the ball he lacks game management. Between him and NTamack it isn’t clear they have a halfback who is going to take the game by the scruff of the neck. If our pack gets on top Laidlaw could be the most influential halfback on the pitch.

    Vahaamina v Gilchrist. Vahaamina is utter rubbish. That is all.

    Belleau v Hastings. Belleau is struggling in a shambles of a team. And then he gets to play for France! Nowhere near deserving all the hype. Hastings is better, even in poor form. But again, struggling to fulfil the hype.

    Medard v Graham. Medard is bettered almost every time he takes the pitch at test level. He looks like he has all the attributes of a classic french back and yet he is just underwhelming. Graham – who knows? Hopefully going to be a future star for Scotland.

  3. No way is it evens in the Horne vs N’tamack rating.

    I know people talk Horne down but he is up against a very young inexperienced player out of his club position. Simply having the name N’tamack doesn’t empower him with his old mans spirit.

    He may go on to be a great player but at the moment its a disservice to Horne.

    Same with Laidlaw. Evens at worst in his head to head. Experience is absolutely paramount in many of these 6N encounters.

    1. N’tamack like Horne is a 12 playing at 10. Dupont also looks far more threatening than Laidlaw. Every team needs a certain amount of experience but having more caps doesn’t make you a better player.

      1. I get you….but these guys are totally undercooked. Laidlaw is a class act. He might not be a sniping tyro but he’s a controller….and in games like this that is huge.

        Ntamack is a name. Show me the money !

        Obviously I’ll be totally wrong and they will destroy our half backs now. Cursed it !

        Should be an ace game. Just hope griggs isn’t too fired up and leaves the defensive lines early.

      2. Agree Green Gumbo – if we give away cheap scores, make mistakes that give France lots of turnover ball, and let their halfbacks grow into the game we’ll be in trouble.

        But being a good player isn’t just line breaks and pace – it is also making the correct decisions, eliminating mistakes, staying focused and calm as the game momentum changes and finding ways to dictate the pace and rhythm of a game. Dupont is going to be a world star, NTamack is full of promise but no evidence yet they can boss a game at the top level.

        If we avoid giving them an easy ride, we’ll have opportunities to win. I’m still sceptical of the result mind, our chances are no better than 50:50

      3. Fair play !

        Dupont was exceptional on Saturday where as Laidlaw had a bit of a mare. Summed up by that pass to advertising boards.

        Thought N’Tamack was pretty anonymous apart from the disallowed try chip through. His score was an easy run in.

        Horne far better when he moved to 12.

  4. Pete Horne MOTM, you heard it here first. Bastareaud vs Grigg is making me chuckle (nervously) Grigg punches well above his weight, but Bastareaud…. to be fair he’s been pretty anonymous in the matches so far, if that can just continue till tomorrow night that would be great. Trying to put a positive slant on things, Russell and Hogg are undoubtedly our a-list stars, time for the other backs to step up and show it’s not all just down to those two. We have as good a chance as we have had recently to beat them, but France don’t roll over easily and certainly dont in Paris.

  5. Anyone want 4 tickets for France v Scotland – something’s come up. Will sell for a packet of twiglets and dime bar, or next best offer.

    1. Seriously – giving these away. Great seats, so if you’re in Paris. Can email you the tickets, someone might as well enjoy them. Sunk costs …

  6. Huw Jones hasn’t played a good game since England last year – where he was obviously awe-inspiring – but apart from a sweet behind-the-back pass against South Africa in November, he’s done very little and looked blunt in attack and defence.
    I think people are being harsh on Grigg, he’s quicker than he looks and has those all-rounder, centre qualities, along with Johnson, that all Antipodean players seem to just have naturally. France are literally having a civil war at the moment – realistically we shouldn’t just win, we should win by about 15 points

    1. Should win by 15?

      They lost by 5 points against wales which included a disaster of a 2nd half. We would be lucky if they replicated that for us. I also don’t think we should base our predictions of big losses at Twickenham…

    2. I agree with you 47% Foreign Born. Great post but I am a little more cautious although all your say is right and could happen. Jones hasn’t been in great form so I think he isn’t actually as big a loss as his reputation is at present. Grigg is a great player and hoping he proves it tomorrow. Grigg and Johnson have played 16 times together which in this era is almost miraculous. It would take two French centres two lifetimes to have that experience together. So hopeful but want tis win so badly.

  7. What a day tomorrow should prove to be. I can’t wait. This is the ultimate in all or nothing tomorrow. Lose and France will fancy three wins to finish the championship. Lose and they’ll be odds on for 5 losses and wooden spoon. We lose we bring wooden spoon into the mix, win and we’ll be likely second in the table close of play this round. Not sure when we were last second after 3 rounds and right in it. All this nonsense of lets look towards the world cup will only come into play should we lose tomorrow. We could have issues with injuries once again for the world cup, nothing is guaranteed. We look to the game tomorrow and we make no excuses, we couldn’t have dreamed to have over 20 injuries and have such a strong side even 12 months ago. We are a much better test match animal these days with the mentality and the depth to be winners.

    We will come out the traps quick tomorrow we almost always do these days. We’ll have a defence that will be up quick and will be able to drive the French back. We’ll have chances early on. We take half of them then we win.

    We’ll lose tries, we’ll make errors, we’ll not have it all our own way but I reckon we’ll do it. Lets not compound errors and be cool under pressure.

    Come on Scotland! Leave the plucky losers behind us. We have done at club level already. Lets grab this chance against the odds to make the world take notice and rack up an way win when it matters.

  8. Maybe it’s the Highland Park 14 I’m drinking but I’m quietly confident for tomorrow. Wish I could get to Paris tomorrow, but I’m sure it will be an interesting game

  9. Scotland have won without Stuart Hogg in the past. Once again , all the chat is about other players and not the massive loss of Hogg, Not a soul, other than Kevin has commented. Is that not progress , is that not optimism!

    I think it is , we appear to have got over so much since we last won in Paris , white line fever, winning without security blankets at 15 , More props and hookers than we ever knew had eaten a scottish pie.

    In 1999, Gavin Hastings a lions captain , Iconic fullback , leader when we previously won in 1995 , had retired and after a few others , a kilted Kiwi , Glenn Metcalfe was selected at 15, having got the first of his 40 caps only 6 months earlier. I think this is a test for Kinghorn more than any other.

    The French rarely read the same newspapers as we do and triumph in Paris usually comes along when we least expect it.We are pitching a side full of stand in’s , the days are lengthening , the sun is out, a day for gaulic flair , they will fancy their chances, high balls into the sun to test Kinghorn, a whippet versus terrier at Scrum half . This is Kinghorn’s test and I hope he takes it.

    1. World Cup Squad excluding players in the Match day squad tomorrow to highlight depth created. (with credit to Cockerill and Rennie)

      1. Jamie Bhatti
      2. George Turner
      3. WP Nel
      4. Richie Gray
      5. Sam Skinner
      6. John Barlcay (c)
      7. Hamish Watson
      8. David Denton
      9. George Horne
      10. Finn Russell
      11. Dougie Fife
      12. Duncan Taylor
      13. Huw Jones
      14. Byron Mcguigan
      15. Stuart Hogg

      16. Ross Ford
      17. Rory Sutherland
      18. Murray Mcallum
      19. Tim Swinson
      20. Ryan Wilson
      21. Henry Pyrgos
      22. Duncan Weir
      23. Mark Bennett

  10. Honestly the most difficult set of head to heads I’ve done for the SRB. First draft off instinct came out heavily in favour of Scotland which just didn’t feel right overall. Went back and forth on a few of them until I just finally had to pick and stick with it! A few points which maybe help explain my thought processes:

    Penaud has looked good in attack (possibly France’s best going forward) in the first 2 rounds – although his defensive positioning is all over the place. Hat-trick v Fiji apart Seymour’s try-scoring form has kind of deserted him these last 2 years.

    Bastareaud can still do what Bastareaud does and be very effective. Also has a surprisingly good offloading / passing game which is something Grigg is still working on improving.

    Fickou is a classy player who has been dicked about by France. Johnson is very tidy in everything he does but he doesn’t have any kicking game to speak of (which is a bit of a black mark for me for a 12 with the way the game is now) and I don’t think he can reach the spectacular heights that Fickou has (intermittently) achieved.

    Ntamcak is a 10 who has been moved to 12 to get game time with his club and now moving back to 10 for his country. Horne is definitely a 12 covering at 10. He’ll be much more solid and I accept that it’s likely Ntamack will be either brilliant or dreadful.

    Dupont has been on superb form for a resurgent Toulouse team. It’s a tough comparison because he and Laidlaw will play completely different styles from the same position. Right now he’s exactly what France need if they’re just going to ‘jouer’ and embrace playing loose and unstructured (because they’re incapable of playing structured rugby!)

    I wouldn’t agree Vahaamahina is utter rubbish. Even the French, bonkers as they are, don’t need to pick someone who is utter rubbish given all the playing resources they have. Probably harsh on Gilchrist though given his form this season.

    1. Hastings hit a slump in December and hasn’t had a chance to play himself out of it with the way the games have fallen.

      Medard is still dangerous in attack expecially if France get their offloading game going. Graham could be a superstar but this is his first proper season as a pro and he’s 10 minutes Test rugby behind him.

      1. There isn’t a single battle on that pitch where I don’t think the Scottish player could outplay his French counterpart if they get everything right though and the French play as they have. We’ve come a long way from being totally overmatched in most departments.

      2. Well said Kevin. Most of the neutrals think we should win. Let’s be un-Scottish about it.
        Stay positive.

  11. Very predictable play from Scotland. Their not going to out muscle France so why keep going down the middle as individuals.

    Try using the blindside. Mix things up. Hopefully they settle down and can find some creativity.

  12. Scotland lucky to still be in this match….very sloppy. P Horne aint an international stand off….Laidlaw providing the slowest service from a SH I’ve ever seen.
    Ritchie and Strauss playing pretty well…Bradbury playing like he has never played 6 in his life.
    S Johnson playing solid again…Grigg not an international centre ..again.
    Why are we sooo bad at catching a high ball?

    Is Seymour playing today?…Id put both Grahams on at half time.

    1. Either we have had the rub of the green with the ref or laidlaw has learned to talk with them.

      Good that france have been contained to within 7 points, puts us in a good place going into 2nd half and think we will win this now.

      Horne has been ok but think Hastings should come on early, along with Darcy Graham.

      Kinghorn has looked a little green with positioning defensively, would consider swapping his role with Maitland.

      Grigg has been outworked slightly need to step it up in 2nd half to cement a spot for following weeks.

  13. Rob, big ask of Pete Horne to shine since he’s not a regular stand-off.

    Ruggers, all the dropped high balls may represent a team lacking in confidence.

    Fortunate to be only 7 points down at HT. Pretty cruisy first half for France and may have more steam than normal in second half.

    Bring on Weir to dictate play. If only.

  14. We might win a a wooden spoon…..6N?? lol
    We’ll get absolutely creamed against England playing like this.

  15. We might just nick it yet , but we had better stop knocking on. Just changed my mind , we canny , Toolis is soo soo soo saft. Really is chewbacca.

  16. How on earth are we still in this game. A turn around should be impossible and on this performance it’s most unlikely.

  17. It took 65 mins for GT to realize/admit the team selection was all wrong.
    Grigg should never be in a 23 again never mind a 15.
    Players who have made an immediate positive difference…. Hastings, Price, Gary Graham, Fagerson…even Toolis (Gray just doesn’t look a 1st choice lock anymore)
    Woeful…unstructured…shambles…GT needs to take a long hard look at himself and the team.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Townsend continually picks the wrong side.

      Huge Gray fan- he isn’t at his usual standard
      Maitland doesn’t look fit
      Bradbury was anonymous
      McInally is not ‘the best hooker in the world’. He had been disappointing and if Brown is fit enough he should start against Wales
      Gary Graham did well.

      Having said the above we massively miss the players that are injured. I would like to see Townsend have a plan B. It wasn’t working in the first half and Russell, Hogg and Jones were not in the back line. Accept that and try to play a different game.

      Also the ref allowed competition at the breakdown which slowed out ball. Like Glasgow when that happens we look clueless.

      Fed up being a Scottish rugby fan. Only silver lining is we got the wooden spoon before the 2015 World Cup and were robbed of a semi final spot. Let’s hope….

  18. Terrible. Worst competitive performance in a few years against a team of the quality of France.

    Townsend must be under pressure.

    Not sure there is anything good to say about that performance. Very very poor.

  19. Maybe I’m just one eyed and missing all of Scotland’s cynical play… but I feel we are constantly short changed when it comes to fowl play. The late hit on Hogg 2 weeks ago (amongst others) and today the late hit on Fraser Brown, the masses of cynical slowing of the ball in red time in the red zone and a blatantly high hit on Darcy Graham. None of it has been noticed. Could make significant differences in points for the championship. Would of claimed the bonus point today though by no means did we deserve to win.

    1. ….we were just awful.
      Its rugby…not a tickling contest.
      Wish people would stop blaming the ref all the time.
      We were a disorganized shambles from start to finish. It was clear before the match that we had to produce a tactically astute and composed performance. We did neither. Buck stops at GT.

    2. The ref had a good game i thought penalised and yellow carded france early on for foul play and was clear.

      Let the game play on for the potential kinghorn try before calling it back for the knock on which i really liked.

      Was clear in his communication and had good support for touch judges and tmo.

  20. Not happy.

    Lineout- shambles
    Kick chase – shocking
    First up tackles – wobbly
    People running straight in midfield – naebody
    Chance of scoring from 5 yards out – hee haw.

    If several key players are out the other “first choice” players need to stand up. And few if any did.

  21. Cotter was taking us to a team that was hard and creative and finishers….GT has slowly and methodically undone that to make us soft, unstructured and understood by opposition.

    Injuries have been bad however there is a clear lack of direction ,confidence and plan B…even from players who are doing well at club level.

    1. We’ve never been consistent and never been good away from home. Townsend hasn’t done that well but we seem to forget we lost Paris 2017 with cotter and had Hogg, Russell, Jones, Barclay, Watson, R.Gray available. We didn’t do so well at Twickenham either.

      Not looking forward to that one…

      1. I would not hold Townsend responsible for today. It was a mess and he is not liable for the injuries or the inability to cross the gain line. Scottland were dire in that regard. Townsend to his credit has also developed bredth and depth , but he cannot make it count.

        We cannot say where Cotter would have taken Scotland, that is unfair. We made a decision to replace him with Gregor Townsend.

        What we can say without fear of contradiction is that Townsend’s 6 Nations counterparts :Gatland, Scmidt, Eddie Jones and Brunel have solid pedigrees. Cotter is a true peer of these coaches. Personally I think it was a wreckless decision to allow Cotter to go , we had finally landed a coach with the pedigree of our neighbours and he was keen to stay. We now have a coach who is learning his trade while the other nations are benefiting from coaches who have proven themselves.

  22. Let’s not forget, we’re missing an awful lot of players, including key players. We have some depth but our best players are sorely missed. Saying that, we played it safe. Hitting it down the middle, sadly the hits didn’t usually take us past the gain line.

    Lots of individual errors epitomises a team on the back foot and lacking direction to take them forward.

    If we want to play the fast flowing rugby being talked about then then it needs to involve all 15 players. Our locks only look to go to ground. Basic handling skills lacking.

  23. Right……..played the wrong team. Ritchie is a 6, potentially a very good 6, the way we try to play we need at least one genuine 7 on the pitch, today that was Fraser Brown or John Hardie (fit) maybe both..

    Bradbury immense last week, pretty anonymous this week…….last week Pygros told Bradbury (& Crosbie) when & where the box kick was going, they then leathered the catcher. Simple.

    Grigg has heart but not an international

    I was wrong re Hastings, maybe he should’ve started, at least he had a go.

    Loads more but need beer

  24. As expected, this game proved starting a 12 at 10 in an international is a terrible idea when you have a quality 10 on the bench.

    The difference in attack when Hastings came on was huge. Horne showed no sign of being able to adapt and play heads up rugby. Just running the same set phases over and over.

    Horne is a good 12, but please no more trying him at 10. I genuinely believe things could have gone differently if Hastings had started.

    First half we never looked like scoring.

    Apart from that the main issues were terrible defence and set piece.

    Kicking possession away after 10 minutes of early pressure from France when we had reasonable field position was very poor decision making and led straight to the first try.

    Seymour is done, he has offered nothing for the last year and must now be dropped.

    I’ve always been supportive of Townsend, but today he got the selection all wrong and needs to take responsibility.

      1. I thought someone might say that!

        Different situation – As far as I understand it, N’tmack is much more of a 10 that has been playing at 12 for Toulouse. 10 is probably his best position, whereas Horne is very much a 12 that occasionally fills in at 10 when he is needed.

        Horne just doesn’t have a natural 10’s vision and never looked like breaking down the defence.

        Got caught a few times with Scotland’s pass behind move that they seem to overuse now, dangerous as your forwards are in front of the tackle so a turnover is a real risk.

  25. Right…………. Townsend has coached Scottish teams (Glasgow & Scotland) to play the best rugby I’ve ever seen from Scottish teams, however we appear to be fairly easy to work out…..slow the ball down, nice aggressive defensive line.

    I’m afraid J.Gray hasn’t progressed still an excellent tackler but….. he’s no AWJ…

    Injuries and small pool of talent are mitigations, however Cockerill & Rennie have styles AND fairly successful.

  26. Lots of criticism of GT’s selection on the site, but most of us were happy with the selection when the team was announced. The team that was selected should have been a lot better than they were. Just a poor performance. But what a difference Hastings and Price and the rest of the bench made when they came on. If Hastings is out of form, what will he look like when he finds it?

    Horne unable to control the game with slow service from Laidlaw, and lacked precision with his passing, but looked decent at 12.

    If we can’t win our own lineout ball, we’re in big trouble. France were very good, and could have put 40 on us. They missed a few relatively easy kicks, too.

  27. Scotland unable to cope with hard and fast rugby – again. Cockerill and Rennie are able to vary their strategic approach but GT seems to wear blinkers on selection and gameplan.

  28. Glasgow last night went “at it” from the off George Horne (yes he has his faults) got Glasgow right onto front foot….Laidlaw (for all his attributes) isn’t explosive and a threat on the top of the ground……. Connacht (not a bad team) blown away (by Glasgow 2nds)

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