Six Nations Scotland v France Preview
All the teams news, battle areas and TV details you need for the Six Nations match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield
Six Nations Scotland v France Preview
Both Scotland and France have made changes to their starting teams ahead of the Six Nations match at BT Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon.
Gregor Townsend has shaken things up following the heavy loss to Wales with six different faces in his Scotland line-up and is clearly looking for more control by bringing in Greig Laidlaw at half-back and Pete Horne at inside-centre.
Sean Maitland replaces Byron McGuigan on the wing, in the pack, Ryan Wilson, Grant Gilchrist and Simon Berghan are selected, while Blair Kinghorn is set to win his first cap from the bench.
Related: Wales 34-7 Scotland match report
France’s changes have been forced following injuries suffered in their defeat by Ireland. Lionel Beauxis replaces Matthieu Jalibert at fly-half, Marco Tauleigne comes in for Kevin Gourdon and Geoffrey Doumayrou starts in place of Henry Chavancy.
Related: France 13-15 Ireland match report
The Key Battle Areas
Bouncebackability – Both these teams had disappointing starts to this year’s Six Nations, but France will be the team feeling slightly better about things.
They may never have looked in control against Ireland but they were competitive and the men in green needed that dramatic Johnny Sexton drop-goal to secure victory. Scotland on the other hand fell well short of expectations in Cardiff. So who can bounce back better in Edinburgh?
The Murrayfield factor could be key. Those who witnessed Scotland’s win over Australia and their impressive performance against New Zealand in November have spoken about a special atmosphere, and the Scots will need that if they are to deliver on their potential.
France are not known as the best travellers and a vociferous home crowd could unsettle them.
Fly-half – The No 10 in any team is crucial, but this game throws up an interesting match-up. Finn Russell is at the heart of the high-tempo, attack-minded game Scotland want to play but he couldn’t make his mark against Wales.
Sometimes he can force plays and if he can manage the game better, he should be able to find the right time to launch Scotland’s dangerous runners.
The selection of Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half should help in this respect. He is a more pragmatic nine to Ali Price and has the kicking game to give Scotland territory – but Russell will also need quick ball if he is to spark the back-line and that is the big question mark hanging over Laidlaw.
At ten for France, is Lionel Beauxis, who hasn’t played for the national team in six years. His last Test was against Wales in 2012 but the 32-year-old has been in fine form for Lyon this season.
France coach Jacques Brunel is backing Beauxis to replicate that form in the Six Nations. Beauxis has been inconsistent with his performances at Test level in the past and the pressure will be on, especially as he has had less than a week to get up to speed with all the French calls and moves.
Ball-carriers – For all the flair in this Scotland side, they lack big ball-carriers to get over the gain-line. Against Wales, they spread the ball wide and tried intricate moves, but they couldn’t make much ground because they didn’t have the power players to make busts through the middle.
The introduction of Ryan Wilson will help in this department and Huw Jones may find more space now he has moved out to 13, but can their tight-five forwards also punch holes in this French defence?
France, too, aren’t exactly blessed in this department. They have favoured an athletic back row in this championship but against Ireland employed them as ball-carriers in heavy traffic when they would probably have been more suited to sourcing space in wider channels.
Teddy Thomas crossed for a wonderful individual try last week, but France also need brute force if they are to create more scoring opportunities.
Defence – France had a tackle success rate of 94% against Ireland, who never looked like scoring a try in Paris. They will need their defensive line to be just as strong in Edinburgh.
Captain Guilhem Guirado led the way in round one with 28 tackles but Kevin Gourdon (21) will be a big loss in this area. Sebastien Vahaamahina made 19 tackles but let himself down by conceding four silly penalties.
Scotland’s tackle success of 87% against Wales was actually better than the home side (86%), but that shows a flaw in statistics! At times Scotland’s defence was so out of sorts no one was even in a position to make a tackle.
Huw Jones and Pete Horne will be more familiar with each other in midfield than Jones was with Chris Harris last week, so that should improve things defensively.
Scrum – There has been much talk of Scotland’s front-row injuries leading up to the Six Nations. In the end it had little impact on the result in Cardiff, but France will no doubt be coming to Murrayfield to target the Scottish set-piece and use their physicality to overpower them at scrum time.
Guilhem Guirado and Rabah Slimani are experienced operators up front and not only will the Scottish forwards have to be at their best, but Greig Laidlaw’s ability to clear pressure with his kicking game from the base of the scrum is likely to come to the fore.
What time does Scotland v France kick off?
Scotland v France, Sunday 11 February, 3pm, BT Murrayfield
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, John Barclay (captain), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Jamie Bhatti, Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis, David Denton, Ali Price, Chris Harris, Blair Kinghorn.
France: Geoffrey Palis; Teddy Thomas, Rémi Lamerat, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Virimi Vakatawa; Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Machenaud; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Rabah Slimani, Arthur Iturria, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara, Marco Tauleigne.
Replacements: Adrien Pélissié, Eddy Ben Arous, Cedate Gomes Sa, Paul Gabrillagues, Louis Picamoles, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau, Benjamin Fall.
Experienced Irish official John Lacey takes charge of this match and is assisted by Nigel Owens (Wales) and Paul Williams (New Zealand). The TMO is Rowan Kitt, who took on the same role for the Italy v England game in round one.
The TV Details
The game is live on BBC1 with coverage starting at 2.30pm. You can also listen live on BBC 5live Extra.
Related: Six Nations TV coverage