Scotland v France: Six Nations 2022, Match Preview pt I

KO 3.00 at Murrayfield
Saturday 26th February 2022

Live on BBC1

A Scotland win on Saturday would be their third in a row against France in the Six Nations. This would be the first time the dark blues have managed three on the bounce against anyone other than Italy in this competition.

Scotland’s longest Six Nations’ winning streaks against each country:

  • v Italy – 6 wins (2016-2021*)
  • v England – 2 wins (2021-2022*)
  • v France – 2 wins (2020-2021*)
  • v Wales – 2 wins (2002-2003)
  • v Ireland – 1 win (4 occasions)

* Denotes active streak

France Scouting Report

Kings of the kicking game.

In this season’s Six Nations, France are the only side to kick the ball over 2 kilometres – 2,260m to be precise. That’s nearly a full kilometre more than Ireland and still comfortably more than Scotland who have the second highest tally for this stat (1,907m). This is a continuation of what brought Les Bleus success against New Zealand in the Autumn. While the attention focused on Romain Ntamack running from behind his own line (and Scotland do still need to be wary of the visitor’s talent for improvisation) it was 944 kicking metres – nearly 200 more than the All Blacks – that really put France in a position to win that epic match.

Scotland will need their own kicking game to be virtually flawless if they are going to win the contest in this area. While the French have spread their gains, with 8 different backs having kicked 50+ metres so far, Scotland are heavily reliant on Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg. Ali Price demonstrated over the summer what a weapon his box kicking game can be but he seems to have been deferring to his half back partner so far in the Six Nations. Antoine Dupont and Maxime Lucu have 789m of kicks under their belts but Price and Ben White have only combined for 250m. A victorious Scottish performance on Saturday probably needs a bigger contribution from their Lions’ scrum half.

Pass marks

Winning the territorial battle via the medium of the boot has meant France haven’t really needed to take risks in attack. Bar Italy, they have the lowest return of metres made with ball in hand and are the only side to average less than 6 metres per carry. Play in the right places and then overpower the opposition until they just fold or space is created for a genius level half back pairing to exploit. It’s a fairly simple game plan but not one that’s proving to be in any way simple for their opponents to stop.

France’s rate of 1.23 passes per carry is the lowest in the championship. That implies an awful lot of pick and gos and forwards running directly off Antoine Dupont. Once they see a gap though the risk level does rise. They’ve made more offloads than any other side and aren’t afraid to give the ball some air once the hard graft has been done. That can lead to mistakes though and consequently, they have the highest number of handling errors among the Six Nations – despite that relatively low level of carries and passes.

In defence, Scotland have to find a way to contain the French up front to limit the opportunities out wide. Once the ball does start moving the home side’s defence will have limited chances to catch up but, if they can force an error, then they need to take advantage. Beating a disorganised Shaun Edwards’ defence is orders of magnitude more straightforward than unpicking an organised Shaun Edwards’ defence…

Miscellaneous

  • The French have conceded at least 2 tries in 10 of their last 11 fixtures.
  • Gregory Alldritt is the only forward to make the top 15 players for metres carried in this season’s Six Nations. The number 8 has made the most carries in the tournament (30).
  • France (39) and Scotland (42) have broken the most tackles in the 2022 championship. These sides also have the best tackle success rates though at 92.4% and 93.1% respectively. Surely something has to give on Saturday?
  • Melvyn Jaminet has kicked 8 penalties in two matches so far – the Scots need to deny him opportunities if they are to lift the Auld Alliance Trophy once again.

Previous results

This will be the 12th time the two sides have played at Murrayfield in a Six Nations match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:

L L L W L L L L W W W

Most recent meeting in Edinburgh:

Scotland 28 – 17 France

Significant stat
7 – penalties conceded by Scotland. The dark blues were on good run with their discipline at this point, conceding 10 or fewer pens in 5 consecutive matches. The French, by contrast, had a bit of a meltdown with 11 penalties, 2 free kicks, a yellow card and a red card contributing to their defeat.

More recently, Scotland have only managed to keep their crime count in single digits once in their last 10 games (in a comfortable win v Tonga). The home side need to improve their discipline.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.

Officials

Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

Over the last seven years, Scotland have only had three English referees take charge of their fixtures – Wayne Barnes (8); Matthew Carley (3); and Luke Pearce (2). In those 13 matches, the dark blues have only ‘won’ the penalty count 5 times – although they have emerged victorious in 7 of those fixtures.

On Saturday, Mr Dickson will add to that list of English officials. The former Harlequins’ scrum half’s* stats show a slightly higher than average penalty count and a tendency towards punishing visiting sides over home teams. France’s discipline has been relatively good this Six Nations (well, except Demba Bamba who has coughed up 4 pens in just 55 minutes) but a packed Murrayfield will be looking to ensure Les Bleus end up on the wrong side of the referee as often as possible.

* It’s always scrum halves isn’t it? Which does present the tantalising prospect of a future that includes George Horne as the sweariest ref in history…


Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.

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When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

28 comments on “Scotland v France: Six Nations 2022, Match Preview pt I

  1. Not science on

    Interesting as always. One point, let’s work backwards on cards: yellow card decided the Wales game, yellow card decided the England game, yellow cards almost decided the France game… then my memory gets hazy, but Wales game decided by red… last France game at Murrayfield decided by red. Keeping 15 players on the pitch seems key!

    • Merlot on

      Absolutely – discipline is key.
      Also not compounding errors with penalties. Against England we only did that twice but against Wales it was six or seven times. A knock on followed by a scrum penalty. A misfiring lineout followed by not rolling away. A kick out on the full followed by in at the side.
      I don’t mind errors – nobody has a perfect game. I don’t mind the odd penalty – sometimes you have to play on the edge. But don’t double- or treble-up as suddenly you’ve given away territory, possession and momentum, and an inevitable score.

  2. Gaffer on

    Oh well, what started as a promising season,Strength in depth in every position , a full squad to pick from, a team so settled it almost picks itself, and the hope to kick on from last years fine finish to the reality of life in the 6 nations.
    A less than convincing victory against the English followed by a callow capitulation against a Welsh side robbed of some of their best talent.
    Injuries to our key players Sutherland, Gray and Redpath, established players not rising to the occasion and all of a sudden that pool of talent looks more like a puddle.
    Perhaps, as in life, i err on the side of pessimism but it’s already beginning to look like another false dawn. The French don’t worry me too much and i do think players like we Darcy and big Duhan will cause them problems but i do think they will edge it in the forwards. Our ‘Bam’ squad failed to materialise 2 weeks ago and the back up of Keble and Berghan coming into the mix concerns me. Meanwhile in the 2nd row, Gilchrist has been workmanlike, nothing more. Gray a tacklebot with no go forward gear now injured has no one champing at the bit to replace him. A back row shorn of Ritchie (and possibly Fagerson too) and a Hamish Watson still short of form will frighten no one.
    Fingers crossed, i am wrong and with the tie being at home anything is possible.
    I have bigger fears for the Ireland game in Dublin

      • FF on

        Fagerson is the missing player that concerns me most I think. He’s been quietly superb for a while now.

        I thought England win was marvellous, showing all sorts of resilience and intelligence to pull the game out of the fire. We flopped again against Wales but we go again. Don’t know why people think the sky is falling, it is just a another reminder that the 6N is a gritty, unforgiving tournament. We have a chance with a home crowd behind us – any type of win would be redemptive. But France are probably the form team in world rugby so it won’t be the end of the world if we lose.

      • Boss H on

        One good game doesn’t make the man the new Hoggy, does it, when will we see his likes again. Look at Huw Jones, the best talent we ever had, but, something went wrong. No offence , you are not the only one who is desperate for Redpath to solve our problems, I think this sums up a huge issue in Scottish International Rugby, we expect a few talented individuals to be better than 15 men playing as a team.

      • Not science on

        The thing about Redpath is that despite playing only one game for Scotland it is the clear that the way he plays, as a rangy ballplayer, could help Finn unlock the best of the team.

        Oh well, still hoping that Sione has a breakthrough international game…

  3. Big Al on

    Interesting stats as always. I dont think of France as a kicking team although clearly they are. Lets hope we are more willing to run it back than against Wales and when we do kick it we are much more accurate than against Wales.

  4. Bryzzowan78 on

    After the horror show in Cardiff, the puncturing of momentum and assertiveness, the injuries and the opposition – I honestly can’t see a win for us this weekend. Which is exactly the narrative we need and thrive on! I said before but losing Ritchie has been a disaster.

  5. Historic Banffshire on

    The Bennett and Darge rumours are interesting.
    Darge instead of, or with Watson? Bennett at 12 to provide a ball player foil for Russell or straight swap for Harris to give us an attacking edge at the expense of our defensive lynchpin?
    Could all be flannel of course, and we might still see the “expected” selection of Watson/Bradbury/Fagerson and Sione/Harris…but when does GT ever select what we might expect?!
    I would love to see those two in somehow or other. We aren’t going to compete with France physically so why try to? We’ve got to find a way to get round them rather than through them….

  6. Warks Scot on

    All is now revealed – two 7s will be interesting, will really have to get to the breakdown quickly and compete hard as looks like we’re having to go for mobility in the back row. Hope Bradbury has his line out head on otherwise a bit short of options there. As had been said several times before, discipline is absolutely key. No daft penalties and keep 15 on the park. This should be an interesting even if nerve wracking game.

  7. Tryhard on

    Darge and Watson might be quite a savvy move. Ritchie and Watson wreaked havoc on the breakdown in 2020 and the French have gone for a similar combination of 3 6/8’s in the backrow. Obviously trade-off is we have a pretty small pack and are vulnerable in the line-out / maul.

    Rest of the team is as expected. Happy for Bennett to be back in the fold – such a talented player and really cruel luck with injuries.

  8. SAS on

    I read in the Guardian that Townsend is urging the Scot’s to win this one last chance!!!!!! It’s not my last chance to say that thus must be Townsend’s last chance at a six nations title. A triple crown would be something even come top of the table o n bonus points. As we don’t seem able to win bonus points then we’re pretty much fecked.
    We will finish 5th or 6th I’m sure . If Townsend doesn’t go then we will finish 5th or 6th next year. What the feck is Bennett doing on the bench , he should be starting at 13, with Jones on the bench. Any doubters just sit and watch Harris try to run with the ball or break the line, Harris is a dead attacking channel in a crucial area.

    • Neil on

      Indeed SAS, 13 is so crucial to the attack and we are only firing about 40% of the potential of this once in a generation backline, this is not say 13 is not crucial to the defence, but a player like Bennett is surely the perfect fit, good defence good attack, he reminds me of Conrad Smith now he is older. Not sure about Jones on the bench, if he can learn to cover wing on top of 12/13/15 then he would be invaluable, I’d prefer Steyn.

      • Angerine on

        I get it. I do. We all want to watch champagne rugby. But you guys are so off base with this anti-Harris stuff, you’re currently not even in the stadium.

        Bennett is a good defender. Harris is a world class defender, one of the best defensive centres in the world. He makes the whole defensive cohesion of our side work, and is an indispensible part of the team.

        Sure, we could pick a sexier attacking 13. But we scored 10 tries last year against the big 4, our best ever in the 6 Nations, all with Harris at 13. He isn’t an attack killer , unless you’re playing for the opposition.

        Like I say, I get it. Bennett is a quality operator, and I’ll be delighted to see him back in a Scotland shirt . But honestly, you guys sound like that American soccerball owner who want to fire his goalkeeper because he didn’t score enough goals.

    • SAS on

      Harris wouldn’t make any other top ten team in the rankings, I wouldn’t consider Hogg as a play maker in attack , just watch how useless Harris is with ball in hand tomorrow, then watch the French 13 or any other 13 in the tournament they defend every bit if not better than Harris plus they break the line into space for their team mates to play off , while drawing in opposition defenders. Harris on the other hand just falls over. We have a generation of players that will never reach their combined potential most of which are in their professional twilight years. Such a pity that they didn’t have a world class coach that would have took them to the top. I read everything that I can on Scottish rugby Tam I’m not a guardian reader nor any other rag , but that’s what Townsend said . Me I like to gather all the evidence and with careful consideration I then look at the most likely of conclusions, but still with an open mind . So Boss H please explain why we don’t need our 13 to be able to play attacking rugby with the ball in had ?

      • Boss H on

        What, Eh : can you not join the dot’s. Because Hogg is there for his attack, his defence is amateur , such a light touch, our back door is wide open. Ying and Yang.

    • SAS on

      As I said Boss H , Hogg is in his twilight years as are many others , and if Hogg is there for his attack then his days are numbered, Ying and yang is required in every aspect of sport, and that excludes coaching. Townsend in Cardiff is like watching Ken Dodd and the Diddy men !

      • Boss H on

        SAS: We are on the same page. I am not a Hogg fan, I think we will be surprised when he goes. Townsend , not the right man , never was . Not a bad description but Ken Dodd , was charismatic and knew how to entertain us. Harris = Toony’s man . Basically IMO when you play specialists that are not all rounders , that creates compromises which in my book is not good for teamwork.

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