KO 8.00pm Saturday 17th August 2019
(9.00pm local time)
Allianz Riviera Stadium, Nice
TV coverage – Premier Sports 1
(re-runs on FreeSports Mon 19th August at 10am and 11.30pm)
Scotland also tackled France in a World Cup warm-up match ahead of the 2015 tournament, going down 16-19 at the Stade de France.
Illustrating the turnover among international squads there are just 9 Scots and 7 Frenchmen who played in that game who are also in their respective countries training squads ahead of this year’s match-up. The Scottish players still involved are Maitland, Seymour, Russell, Laidlaw, Nel, J. Gray, Wilson, Brown and Reid.
France Scouting Report
Record in this RWC cycle
Played – 37
Won – 12
Drawn – 1
Lost – 24
This has been comfortably the worst RWC cycle in history for France. Prior to the 2015 tournament, their lowest return of victories was 55%. However, since they peaked with a win percentage of 71% ahead of the 2007 World Cup it’s all been downhill for Les Bleus.
By contrast, Scotland are on a significant upturn in fortunes. They’re currently heading into a World Cup with their best winning percentage across one of these 4-year cycles – 55%. That’s a full 20% ahead of where they were prior to the last RWC in England.
The increase in try-scoring across the rugby world seems to have passed France by somewhat. The Top 14 returns the lowest ratio of tries per match of the big 3 European leagues. Meanwhile, the French national side is the only one of the Six Nations to see their scoring diminish from the historic lows of the 2011 RWC cycle. While the other teams increased their number of tries by an average of 21 during the most recent 4-year period, France suffered a drop of 13.
Scotland’s direction of travel in this respect has been very much more positive. They’ve scored 50 tries in the Six Nations and 118 in all fixtures during the last 4 years. In both categories that is more than they’d scored in the previous two RWC cycles combined.
He may not be the trendiest of players. He’s not the fastest, nor the biggest. He’s certainly not the most popular. And yet Yoann Huget just keeps coming back for more. After it seemed his international career might be over during a year in exile he’s scored 4 tries in his last 5 Tests since his recall. That’s by far the best run he’s had for France.
His position will certainly come under threat from the likes of the uncapped Alivereti Raka but Jacques Brunel has shown a lot of faith in Huget and his experience may still make him a key player in the backline for this World Cup campaign.
Scotland have particular reason to be sick of the sight of a player who has never lost to the dark blues in 7 attempts!
Antoine Dupont is on a trajectory so dizzying that rising star barely does him justice. His hugely transformational effect on Toulouse has shown hints that it might be replicated at international level. For both club and country, he’s surrounded by dangerous players but his speed of thought and deed is key to unleashing that array of talent.
The stylistic parallels with Scotland’s own George Horne are numerous. They’re both players who can take advantage of the most marginal of opportunities and have elevated try-scoring from 9 to an art form. The more centralised nature of Scottish rugby meant Horne the younger switched from 10 to 9 before moving into the key development stages of pro rugby though.
Dupont’s time in the Top 14 as a stand off will have broadened his skillset but maybe means that his scrum-half fundamentals have yet to be fully honed. The trouble for a defence trying to take advantage of any perceived deficiencies is that there’s every chance they’ll find themselves clutching at thin air as the French 9 leads another line break upfield…
This will be the fifth time the two sides have met during the current RWC cycle:
Murrayfield, 13 March 2016
Stuart Hogg (1T, 1P);
Duncan Taylor (1T);
Tim Visser (1T);
Greig Laidlaw (1C, 3P)
Guilhem Guirado (1T);
Gael Fickou (1T);
Maxime Machenaud (1C, 2P)
Stade de France, 12 February 2017
Gael Fickou (1T);
Camille Lopez (1C, 5P)
Stuart Hogg (1T);
Tim Swinson (1T);
Finn Russell (2P)
Murrayfield, 11 February 2018
Huw Jones (1T);
Sean Maitland (1T);
Greig Laidlaw (2C, 6P)
Teddy Thomas (2T);
Maxime Machenaud (2C, 2P);
Baptiste Serin (2P)
Stade de France, 23 February 2019
Romain Ntamack (1T);
Yoann Huget (1T);
Gregory Alldritt (2T);
Thomas Ramos (1C, 1P);
Baptiste Serin (1C)
Ali Price (1T);
Adam Hastings (1C);
Greig Laidlaw (1P)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant 1: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Never mind the opponents, Gregor Townsend will be looking to grab the opportunity over the next few weeks to get as much insight as possible into some of the officials. Messrs. Owens, Barnes, Anselmi and Hughes will all be involved in Scotland’s RWC pool matches. Barnes will referee the return fixture against France next week as well as Scotland’s opening game in Japan against Ireland.
In two weeks time, Pascal Gauzere will be the man in the middle for the warm-up match in Georgia (more on that in the coming weeks) and he will also referee Scotland’s clash with Samoa in the World Cup. There’s an opportunity to ensure the team understand what the officials are looking for but also to make sure that they are aware of what Scotland will bring to the table.
Scotland have a good record in the penalty count with Mr Owens in charge. Results, not so much, with the Calcutta Cup classic in 2018 the only game they have won under the Welsh whistler in the last decade. That includes three previous defeats to France if you like your omens bleak…
Scotland’s last 5 games with Mr Owens in charge:
- 2011 – lost to Ireland (H)
Penalties: 17 (For 13 – 4 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Allan Jacobsen)
- 2013 – lost to France (A)
Penalties: 19 (For 11 – 8 Against)
- 2015 – lost to France (A)
Pens: 19 (For 8 – 11 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Johnnie Beattie)
- 2015 – lost to South Africa (N – RWC)
Pens: 19 (For 11 – 8 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Greig Laidlaw); South Africa 1 YC
- 2018 – beat England (H)
Pens: 20 (For 13 – 7 Against)
Cards: England 1 YC
The Scotland team will be announced later in the week.