Of the French 23 for this game only Gael Fickou has ever experienced what it’s like to beat Scotland at Murrayfield (he played 12 minutes off the bench in 2014). It would be absolutely lovely if the dark blues could keep things that way for at least the next 2 years, please and thank you.
Tale of the tape
54 Tries 30
95kg Average weight 90kg
221 Total caps 137
105 6N caps 69
27.0 Average age 24.2
907kg Pack weight 922kg
10 Tries 11
185 Total caps 124
74 6N caps 58
27.1 Average age 26.5
22 Tries 9
162 Total caps 104
68 6N caps 51
27.5 Average age 23.9
3 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Italy)
- 2 – Brown for McInally [=]
- 4/5 – Gilchrist for Toolis [=]
- 8 – Haining for Bradbury [=]
Stuart Hogg (c)
Bernard le Roux
Charles Ollivon (c)
Backs – advantage France
For nearly 25 years the Hastings family have been waiting for revenge on the Ntamacks. Emile’s late, late try in the 1995 World Cup pool stages was a dagger to the heart of big Gav’s final campaign for Scotland in the fight of the fathers. Can Adam Hastings triumph over Romain Ntamack in the scuffle of the sons?
While playing for Racing 92 this season, Virimi Vakatawa has cemented his reputation as one of European rugby’s most dangerous attackers. The big centre has had his moments for France too but he’s been restricted to 3 carries against England and 6 versus Wales. Scotland’s best chance of keeping the former 7s star quiet is to follow that template of stopping the ball getting into his hands too much.
Forwards – advantage Scotland
The French lineout is dominated by their back row – in particular, Francois Cros and Charles Ollivon. So far in the tournament, France’s starting locks have just 2 catches whereas the back row have taken 33 on their own throw, with the flankers pouching nearly all of those.
Given this, it seems likely that one of the work ons for Nick Haining when he’s been made available for Edinburgh during this Six Nations window has been his contribution at the lineout. Up to the start of February he had just a single catch at the setpiece for his club in the PRO14. Against Connacht he had 1 take plus 1 steal on opposition ball. Last week he won 5 lineouts versus Cardiff Blues. Expect him to be the third option for Scotland on Sunday.
Subs– advantage France
As Part I of the preview noted, France have given up a rake of points in the final quarters of matches during the Six Nations. Looking at the array of talent on their bench that seems somewhat counterintuitive but the subs have struggled to have the impact that their starters have managed early on.
Gregor Townsend has tinkered with his bench somewhat but seems to have settled on an interesting mix between solidity (Nel and Weir), muscular physicality (McInally and Bradbury) and explosive attackers (Skinner, Horne and Steyn). This group will almost certainly have a huge part to play in the outcome of the match, either chasing or (hopefully!) closing out the game.
– It’s been 1,085 days since Duncan Weir’s last game for Scotland and 679 days since his last appearance at Murrayfield (for Edinburgh). Will Duncy make a triumphant return to the national stadium on Sunday?
– Weir and Kyle Steyn will be the 75th and 76th players to feature in the Townsend era if they make if off the bench against France.
– Considering it’s the French squad that’s supposed to have undergone a major overhaul post-RWC the level of changes from these two sides’ Six Nations’ fixture in Paris 12 months ago are remarkably similar. Both teams have 5 players returning in their starting XVs. 12 of Scotland’s 23 also featured last season at the Stade de France. The equivalent number for the French is 11.
– At the start of the 2023 World Cup cycle, France have just 2 players aged 29 or older in their lineup (1 starter and 1 sub) who might be considered unlikely to make it to their home tournament in just under 4 years’ time. Scotland have 7 in the 29+ bracket (5 starters and 2 subs).
– France’s victory at the Millenium Stadium was their first away win against one of the old Five Nations sides since they beat Scotland at Murryfield in 2014. In the last 10 years of the tournament, the French have only won 4 times away from home against England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
– During the current Six Nations the sides who have named teams for 4 fixtures have made the following alterations:
- Changes to starting XVs: England – 11; Scotland – 7; Wales 7; France – 4.
- Changes to matchday 23s: England – 11; Scotland – 10; Wales – 10; France – 7.
- Different players in starting XVs: England – 22; Wales – 21; Scotland – 20; France – 18.
- Different players in matchday 23s: Scotland – 31; England – 30; Wales – 30; France – 29.