France have made a number of injury-enforced (or enabled) changes with the threatening Damian Penaud returning from his injury in place of Teddy Thomas and prop Jefferson Poirot in for the injured Cyril Baille. It’s now a very dangerous looking backline indeed that Steve Tandy’s defence will have the task of shackling.
Hosts Scotland meanwhile have opted for more of the same in terms of the starting XV with Grant Gilchrist the only man yet to start this tournament and an unchanged backline; the other two changes, Nick Haining and Fraser Brown – set for his 50th cap – are restored to the starting XV but having already played in some of the games.
On the bench there is a fair amount of change though with Sam Skinner, Duncan Weir and Kyle Steyn all new to the matchday 23, since what we’re terming the Tombola 2.0 that started in February. 11 of the side will have started all four tests, so maybe a key feature of the new tombola is that it only applies to a couple of spots on the team or the bench while everything else sticks?
Weir has not featured for Scotland since the 2017 championship and his return in the absence of Finn Russell is perhaps the starkest symptom yet of the safety-first approach, but it does leave the bench looking short of backline game-changers, aside from George Horne.
Of course, with France on the hunt for a Grand Slam, the bench may not get much of a say in the matter. The hope will be that it’s tight going into the final quarter. Drop goal anyone?
Part I of Kevin’s Scotland vs France preview can be found here. Part II will appear shortly.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt), Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Magnus Bradbury, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Kyle Steyn.
France: Anthony Bouthier, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (capt), Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Taofifenua, Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Ramos.