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France v Scotland 2021 preview. set.piece battle could be key to success

France v Scotland 2021  preview. set.piece battle could be key to success
scotland v france

France v Scotland France v Scotland be success preview: set-piece key battle to could

Fri, 26 Mar 2021 18:00:00 +0000

France will field a lightweight front five which Scotland must target as they seek first win in Paris this millennium

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YES, admittedly, the integrity of the Six Nations has been compromised as France know exactly what they need to do to leapfrog Wales in the table but it is difficult to get exercised.

In another year that could happen in the final game regardless and if France have a benefit in knowing what they must do, so too Scotland benefit from knowing what they must prevent.

And in a season blighted by Covid can’t we just be grateful that the Championship took place at all, with just one game rearranged.

The two teams mirror each other in some respects with both countries welcoming back totemic fly-halfs for the final dance at the Six Nations ball tonight in Paris; the question remains whether Finn Russell or Romain Ntamack will be grinning/gurning at the pitch side cameras come no side?

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Both teams have scored 15 tries and both teams have conceded seven which suggests that there isn’t too much between them.

Both coaches have selected with defence at the forefront of their thinking.

Despite Huw Jones’ heroics in the last two games, the outside centre drops to the bench almost certainly because Gregor Townsend does not want to put him in Virimi Vakatawa’s firing line … at least not for the full 80 minutes.

Interestingly Vakatawa has missed four tackles this season at least suggesting that a fresh Jones may trouble the tiring Frenchmen late in the game.

For France, Fabien Galthie has dropped the attacking marvel that is Teddy Thomas and shunted Gael Fickou to the wing.

Fickou is one of France’s defensive leaders and when asked why he was moved to the wider channel, Galthie specifically mentioned the attacking threat posed by “des joueurs tres athletique”, for which read 105kgs of Duhan van der Merwe.

Oddly, as things stand, the flying Saffa will go up against Damian Penaud unless Fickou wears 11 but pops up on the right wing to mark Scotland’s danger man?

Whoever ends up keeping tabs on van der Merwe will also attempt to exploit the South African’s habit of going AWOL in defence.

 

France are building for RWC’23, that much we know, and their first Championship win for 11 years would be an important step on the way, especially after the Welsh forwards held the whip hand for much of last weekend’s game.

Being bested by the ageing Welsh pack is a bad sign for any side but calamitous for a squad with pretensions to winning the big one.

With Paul Willemse banned for eye contact in the Wales game, Galthie has taken the surprising decision of dropping his other big beast of a lock Romain Taofifénua in favour of Swan Rebbadj who is more a tall, slim, athletic type of player but without the same impact in the close quarter exchanges.

This is important because shorn of their two biggest locks (Taofifénua and Willemse), France’s set scrum, which has creaked worryingly already in this campaign, will come under renewed scrutiny from Scotland.

France’s loose-head Cyril Baille especially will be asked questions by Zander Fagerson.

The young Scot tends to concede a few too many penalties for my liking but when the mood takes him Fagerson can be an awesomely destructive tigh-thead and Baille is better known for his athletic prowess around the field rather than his set-piece scrummaging.

Without the bulk of  Taofifénua/Willemse behind him Baille looks isolated and more than a little vulnerable.

Scotland need to get a toe hold in the game somewhere and the set scrum looks like the most promising opportunity.

If you think this is speculation you are right, but the speculation is backed up by some weighty statistics.

Taofifénua and Willemse both tip the scales at 135 kgs (give or take the odd bag of sugar) while Bernard Le Roux and Rabbadj are both approximately 115 kgs so this French pack is missing around 40kgs (about six stone in old money) of muscle mass.

Incidentally, Willemse was also France’s leading tackler in this championship with 70 to his name, six more than flanker/captain Charles Ollivon, which is good going for a big lump.

And France are a little like England in at least one respect … take away their set-piece and it’s akin to sticking a silver sword in a vampire’s heart.

If they lose the scrum battle it is not obvious that France will continue to scrap for everything elsewhere.

Should their set scrum drop anchor then France remain clear favourites if only thanks to Scotland’s woeful record in Paris without a win this millennium.

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This French squad is dangerous not because they can play either tight or loose rugby, although they can, but because they can transition from one mindset to the other quicker than anyone else, not just from defence to attack but also from one-out runners to moving the ball at pace to exploit an opportunity elsewhere.

So, inside their own half the Scots will be expecting big forward runners but if there is a mismatch, a dog leg or space out wide, France’s halfback partnership can recognise as much and take the space so quickly the opposition scramble is often clutching at shadows.

Three of the four top offloaders are French so the Scots will be looking to wrap up the ball in the tackle wherever possible.

The cards are stacked in France’s favour, they have game breakers across the squad, home advantage and the best player in world rugby in Antoine Dupont, but they are also missing a huge amount of muscle in their not-so-tight five.

If Scotland can exploit that literal weakness, especially in the set scrum, Townsend’s team could undermine the always fragile French psyche and finish with a rare flourish.

France v Scotland: Stuart Hogg hacked off by lack of respect

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Good observations.

Willemse in particalar has given them a physical presence like the great “tractors” Palmie and Imbernon of the 1970s hitting rucks, big carries, dominant tackles, big scrum, and I agree their props are not the great technnicians we have come to expect from France.

As a result don’t think we will be bullied.

The more we can disrupt up front in the first half, the more chance we have.
Expecting a cracker.

They are fair game for us…what we need to is to be THE biggest nuisance in the first half by disrupting and frustrating them.

Watson and Ritchie need to be at their very best.

In the Scrummage we need to ensure we force them into bad positions.

When we do get the ball lets ensure we put it into their half and give them no room.

2nd half we need to get in their face offensively and push the limits of what their legs and lung power can withstand.

We have the fitness and the bench to do so.

Cummings will be badly missed in this kind of game

“Lightweight”?…
40 kgs…
Not really from my point of view in the modern game.
It is more about athletism.
We’ll see that tonight.
Good luck to Scotland

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France v Scotland France v Scotland

Fri, 26 Mar 2021 18:00:00 +0000

The 2021 Six Nations ends in Paris tonight as Wales hope France will fall short of doing enough to take the title from them

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The 2021 Six Nations ends in Paris tonight as Wales hope France will fall short of doing enough to take the title from them

France take on Scotland tonight, with every rugby fan in Wales set to closely follow what happens in the final match of the Six Nations.

The French must secure a bonus point win and a margin of victory of 21 points or more to deny Wales the title just six days after ripping apart their Grand Slam hopes.

There is also a scenario where the title could end up being shared if France win by exactly 20 points.

The game kicks off at 8pm UK time and will be shown live on BBC One.

Live updates below.

France: Brice Dulin; Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas; Bernard Le Roux, Swan Rebbadj; Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon (capt), Gregory Aldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.

Replacements: David Cherry, Oli Kebble, Simon Berghan, Alex Craig, Ryan Wilson, Scott Steele, Adam Hastings, Huw Jones.

Here we go then.

Hold onto your hats!

"I know there are a lot of questions about scoring points but it's very simple.

"The most important thing is to start with lots of energy and hopefully you win the game.

"That's the only goal for us."

Raphael Ibanez, France team manager

Some early shots from the BBC coverage show horrid weather in Paris.

It's belting down with rain at the Stade de France.

Will that mean anything? Will that favour anyone? We'll see.

Right then, take a screenshot of these are write them down because they're important!

Scotland win: Wales are champions

Draw: Wales are champions

France win without a bonus point: Wales are champions

France win with a bonus point but by less than 20 points: Wales are champions

France win with a bonus point and by exactly 20 points: Championship decided on tries scored (Currently: Wales 20, France 15).

France win with a bonus point and by 21 points or more: France are champions

For our @WelshRugbyUnion fans…

#AsOne pic.twitter.com/SHfPNVZo77

Wales stalwarts Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies have questioned the fairness of tonight's rearranged match.

The game between France and Scotland, scheduled for earlier in the tournament, was postponed after a Covid outbreak within the French camp.

It later transpired that a group of players left the Covid-secure bubble in Rome.

Les Bleus were not punished, though, and it could be argued that they've gained a competitive advantage as Scotland do not have all their players – though they have the majority – available for tonight's match due to player release complications.

Davies and Biggar were appearing on the House of Rugby podcast to discuss the events of last weekend.

Full story here…

“The tournament ends on a Super Saturday and it should have ended on Saturday,” said Davies.

“For them to get more time as a squad and then play [against] a weakened team on the weekend – it doesn’t seem fair.

“But they are the cards that France have been dealt and we all tune in on Friday with our tartan on, looking forward to, hopefully, a Scottish victory.”

Biggar added: “It feels like everyone else has managed to get all Covid tests back negative and France have broken the rules but seem to be gaining an advantage by knowing exactly what they need to do.

“It’s disappointing from our end on that.”

This bodes well hopefully.

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg is hacked off at the way tonight's match is being talked about.

He's unhappy the focus is on what France's margin of victory will be, with the Scots still intent on finishing second in the tournament.

"A lot has been said that's beginning to hack me off," Hogg said.

"The fact that they've got to get 21 points.

We read a quote from one of their players saying that they've got a trophy to win.

As a proud Scotsman, that hurt me a lot.

"We win by eight points, and we finish the highest we've ever finished in a Six Nations.

That's the motivation for us.

It's going to be one hell of a challenge, an open game of rugby, and we're really, really excited for it."

A very good evening to you on the night the Six Nations is finally decided.

By 10pm tonight we will know the winner of the 2021 tournament, and hopefully it will be Wales.

Here's the basics of what you need to know.

A Scotland win or a draw gives Wales the title.

If France win but don't get a bonus point, Wales are champions.

The French need to beat Scotland, score four tries or more and win by at least 21 clear points to draw level in the Championship table and overturn Wales' points difference advantage

If they are tied on points difference (if France get a bonus point win and the margin of victory is 20), then the title will be decided by number of tries scored.

Currently, Wales have scored 20 tries and France have scored 15 tries.

If everything is level (points, points difference, tries scored), the title will be shared.

Simples.

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– March 26, 2021
France v Scotland 2021 preview. set.piece battle could be key to success
scotland v france

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