Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


France v Scotland, Summer Tests 2019: Match Preview

[Edinburgh, UK. November 11, 2017] Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend - Scotland vs Samoa at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

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.

Danger man

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!

Rising star

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…

Previous results

This will be the fifth time the two sides have met during the current RWC cycle:

Murrayfield, 13 March 2016
Scotland 29
Stuart Hogg (1T, 1P);
Duncan Taylor (1T);
Tim Visser (1T);
Greig Laidlaw (1C, 3P)
France 18
Guilhem Guirado (1T);
Gael Fickou (1T);
Maxime Machenaud (1C, 2P)

Stade de France, 12 February 2017
France 22
Gael Fickou (1T);
Camille Lopez (1C, 5P)
Scotland 16
Stuart Hogg (1T);
Tim Swinson (1T);
Finn Russell (2P)

Murrayfield, 11 February 2018
Scotland 32
Huw Jones (1T);
Sean Maitland (1T);
Greig Laidlaw (2C, 6P)
France 26
Teddy Thomas (2T);
Maxime Machenaud (2C, 2P);
Baptiste Serin (2P)

Stade de France, 23 February 2019
France 27
Romain Ntamack (1T);
Yoann Huget (1T);
Gregory Alldritt (2T);
Thomas Ramos (1C, 1P);
Baptiste Serin (1C)
Scotland 10
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)
    Cards: none
  • 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.

31 Responses

  1. This was good. Hoping to see a team of:

    Bhatti, McInally, Fagerson
    Gray, Skinner
    Bradbury, Watson, Thomson

    Price, Russell
    Maitland, Taylor, Hutchinson, Graham

    1. Would certainly like to see Duncan Taylor get to play. Seems an age since we last saw him in a Scotland shirt and I hope his wretched run of bad luck with injuries hasn’t reduced his effectiveness. Huge talent.

      1. Taylor was by far and away our best centre prior to a terrible run of injuries.
        Id have him come off the bench….and slowly graduate him back into test level…bit soon to throw him straight back imo.

    2. I think Harris should start at 13 this weekend.

      He needs to show he can put his performances on the training field into a real game, is so much easier to play well in training games in my experience because you know what to expect, its a lot harder to replicate that in a real game.

      If he cant do it this weekend, i would cut him from the squad this weekend… i think Wilson, P Horne, Strauss, Jones & Seymour are in the same boat here based on recent form.

  2. Scrummo – like your thinking there. We def need to try Skinner, Thomson, Hutchison out. I would like to see George Horne tried. He is a real talent. I’d hate to see us just going with the tried and tested and miss a real opportunity to have a good go at it this year. I don’t think we’ll ever have a better chance. NZ not at their peak, South Africa emerging but not there yet, Australia def weakened after Folau’s departure, Ireland peaked to early(maybe) and Wales not perhaps as good as their ranking suggests. England I think are the real danger but we’ve won and drawn against them in the last 2 tests. Not that I’m writing any off those teams off. If scotland play to their potential (for once), they could have a good kick at the tyres!

    1. Yeah I think away to France we should run out as many of the wider squad as possible. With a view to picking a strong side at Murrayfield and another audition of possibles away to Georgia.

    2. Like the idea of George Horne getting a start. Would also like to see George Turner (if fit) get a start at hooker as he’s likely to be 3rd choice.

      I think a problem with the last squad was bringing Kevin Bryce and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne to the WC as injury cover with no real intention to play them. We want a squad where every member of the 31 is able to step up and start when required.

    3. NZ will be ready to go for RWC …im 100% certain of that. They have experimented a bit during the rugby championship…Australia beat them but very hard to gauge because NZ played half the match a man down. with scores pretty even up until then…and it was in OZ.
      Im not so sure Aus are weaker without Falau …K Beale is a terrific player on his day arguably even better when on form.
      We always struggle against Sth Africa…they use their power …and we don’t counter it for 80 mins.They have really improved the last year and are one of the favs I think.
      Id rather we came up against they play more open…which suits our game more.
      Anyway… that’s assuming we even get out our group… which I wouldn’t bet on.

      1. I can’t make the ABs out at the moment. Maybe it’s because I’m not very familiar with what their best combinations are and therefore how strong (or not) they’ve been in the Rugby Championship so far. If I were a Kiwi, I’d be a bit concerned about a narrow win in Argentina, a draw at home v SA, and a stuffing (even with 14 men for half the match) by the Wallabies.
        Very much agree the Saffers are getting their act together again. It’s a brutal overall approach but an effective one. And there’s some style in their game too to complement the heft.

      2. Just hoping it signals the officials are no longer giving them special dispensation. Though if I’m honest I’d just prefer us to get an even break.

        And from watching super rugby , let’s stop being lax , and start applying the law on forward passing , if the ball goes forward it’s a forward pass , simples , no direction of the hands nonsense , if the ball is caught in front of where the passer releases it , it has gone forward

  3. I agree with Kevin reference the match officials. This blog rarely has much positive to say about them and as we know, they can make the difference from qualifying or not. (Joubert). Hope Townsend looks after them and names a captain to build a relationship.As always , through presentation of the facts and this time, the facts are more positive than usual.

  4. if we go all out for one it should be this one. Get the away monkey off our back and then wrap Hogg and Finn in cotton wool. We know what they bring, they just need a bit of sharpening let the fringe players impress. Give Taylor, Barclay et al a chance to get match fit. Don’t risk our core.

    1. Yeah I’d start Russell one game only. Give Hastings two starts and then one (Georgia at home probably) to whoever is being considered the 3rd choice emergency option at 10 be it Horne, Laidlaw, Hutchinson or even Hogg.

      1. Would definitely like to see Hutchinson get exposure at 10.
        Ideal games to do that.
        Horne has ranged from terrible to average at 10. He is a centre and 2nd receiver 12 Id leave him out the 31 as we have better centre options imo. Laidlaw only when there are no other 10 options on the team.

      2. Horne was very good at 10 when we broke our long run against France at Murrayfield and Russel was injured after 20 minutes.

        I feel after we blew a chance to beat Ireland in Dublin through profligacy, with horne really being to the fore, he has become the latest fall guy and people forget all the good things he’s done in a Scotland shirt. The Italy debacle did him no favours but he is still a very good 12 and decent emergency cover at 10.

        Taylor’s best rugby for Scotland has been at 13 but if he was selected there he’d edge out our latest great white hope who seems to have become indispensable without making his test debut yet!

      3. FF – Horne was ok at 10 off the bench vs France in 2016. He kept the ship steady but was in no way responsible for the win – a blinder of a performance by the Hogg was the main catalyst. His three starts for Scotland at 10 have been losses to Italy (’15), Fiji (’17) and France (’19). The France game in particular this year was enough to convince that he is not an international 10 and therefore must be considered solely as a 12.

        He’s a solid player and I don’t dislike him but he’s prone to numerous brain-fades and doesn’t possess the x-factor of some of the other options at centre. We also know what he can do and that he’s solid but in no way spectacular which is why he’s a decent fall-back if injuries occur.

        You are right in that Hutchinson hasn’t been proven at international level but surely you can’t watch some of his performances this year for Northampton and say he’s not worth a shot? I’d personally rather give a go to someone who could be great than someone we know is ok

  5. Bit conflicted as to who I would start this first game. We could do with a confidence boosting win on the road so that would suggest first choices. However, I’d like to see the uncapped players sooner rather than later and test out a few combinations. I think Johnson’s ankle knock means we will have a new centre combination anyway for this game. Would be fun to see Taylor/Hutchinson get a run.

    Having seen Gareth Anscombe now miss the world cup due to knee ligament damage from the weekend I must confess some nerves around Russell and Hogg’s wellbeing. At least we have more options than a couple of years ago in these positions.

  6. I would predict
    Dell, McInally, Nel
    Toolis Gilchrist
    Wilson, Thompson, Barclay
    Horne Hastings
    Taylor, Jones
    McGuigan, Kinghorn, Graham.

    Reid, Turner, Bergan, Bradbury, Watson, Price, Horne, Hutchinson

    I think Townsend said he was unlikely to pick players who played late in the season so Im guessing France, Saracens, exeter and glasgow players less likely.

    1. I think its quite a decent shout to play a core of Edinburgh boys as its been a while since they had a game. Having said that they’ve all been in camp long enough now that everyone should be match ready.

      I’d love to see George Horne + Hastings get a start although I think that might be kept for a later game.

      The other big thing for this game is to get midfield defense firing and get those combinations working.

  7. Just thinking about this a bit more I would play the A team in the home games and the B team away against Georgia. The A team being most likely starters against Ireland and the B team being the most likely starters against Russia.

    This first game is the most experimental opportunity. If we lose away against France then there is no great shock but we will learn about a few players. We would then need to win the home game against France and the 2 Georgia games to build confidence before we go.

    1. Somewhat agree in light of needing confidence coming from an average 6nations….however with RWC being in Japan we really need to get results away from home to know we can perform. Our results away from home have been pretty poor.

      1. Slightly more concerned that if we put out our best team this weekend and we don’t win we’ll be no wiser and in meltdown before we even finalise the 31.

        There is a real chance that despite the best squad in a generation we don’t make it out of our group for the first time.

        I hope they’ve had the psychologists working on our performances away from home! I guess its not long until we find out.

    2. Yeah I agree Big Al, first game most experimental, I dont know when the next squad cut will be? After the France home game or no more cuts till all 4 warm ups have been played? if its the former and Townsend has committed to giving everyone left a game then most of the peripheral players Strauss, Harris, Cummings, etc will have to get on in one of these France games. Having seen Carberry and Anscombe both get knocks makes me very nervous about risking Russell, Hogg or even Watson to much in these warm ups when theyve had plenty of game time of late and are known performers.

      1. I would think the next cut (to 31) will be after this game. The benefits of prolonging the cut to allow Toonie more time to figure out who is best placed, are outweighed by the fact that the guys won’t be beating each other up to get on the plane, and the extra weeks’ of building the squad mentality.

  8. Really have to see Taylor start this game otherwise he can’t prove he’s up to the job. Probably also start Hutchinson – if they work out as individuals and as a unit, then could well see them on the plane with Johnson & Jones. Having said that, Toonie likes Harris & he could grab a 13 shirt but perhaps starting in the next match. P Horne I suspect will miss out as Laidlaw can cover as emergency 10 (interesting that Eddie Jones has gone with just 2 scrummies, one injury away from a big problem & not sure who in England squad would cover).
    Back row is a right conundrum. Thomson to start on Saturday to see what he can do & perhaps M Fagerson on the bench. Would also like to see Reid, Turner & Horne given game time – all are likely to go to Japan & therefore need a bit of international exposure at this time.
    Will be interesting to see if the French experiment or put out their strongest squad to get some confidence; both teams really looking for some kind of consistency in performance if not in players.
    Shame there’s not much terrestrial tv coverage but can listen to the radio commentary as I drive north of the border this weekend.

    1. Premier Sports is only £10 a month and you’ll get all the warm up games.
      Plus all the Pro14 when it starts again. I’m not a big advocate of pay TV but that seems a good deal for a Scots rugby fan.

      1. £99 for a full year. If you’re already a subscriber via Sky, and threaten to leave, there’s a deal for £75

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