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.
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…
- 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.
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
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.
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.