Preview: France v Scotland

Fri, 15 Mar 2013 11:05
Large thierry dusautoir france ru Large greig laidlaw scotland kick Large france general Large johnnie beattie scotland

France are hoping to avoid the wooden spoon for the first time since 1999 when they face the Scots in Paris on Sunday.

France are hoping to avoid the wooden spoon for the first time since 1999 when they face the Scots in Paris on Sunday.

Scotland have been fairly impressive this season after they gained two wins in the tournament - against Ireland and Italy.

French boss Phillipe Saint-Andre, who is under a lot of pressure, will be hoping that his team will be able to pull something out of the fire right at the death of the season.

"I want them to deliver pleasure to the public, to the Stade de France and to French rugby. I want them to finish on a high note in what has been for us a very very bad Six Nations.

"I have told the players they must battle for 80 minutes and take the game by the scruff of the neck," said the 45-year-old.

The coach has come under a bit of criticism for his selection of Freddie Michalak.

"I cannot imagine the people who were applauding him in November (when he played an influential role in France's three Test wins), will boo him on Saturday," said Saint-Andre.

There have been a number of changes in the French side with Antonie Claassen coming into the side for Yannick Nyanga, as well as Sebastien Vahaamahina for Christophe Samson.

The big change for the French is the return of Mathieu Bastareaud who comes into the side for Florian Fritz.

The abrasive centre was not picked in the starting line-up for the French draw against Ireland but has really made an impact when he has been on the field.

"It is imperative we stop asking ourselves 10,000 questions, to think of what will happen if we lose.

"We have to think about winning, to be positive and to go out to play the Scots with our heads held high and be proud to play in this final match.

"For us it has been a difficult tournament. There has not been much pleasure to take out of it. We need to try and enjoy ourselves," Bastareaud said.

Scotland, who lost to Wales in their last fixture, will be hoping that they can travel to Paris and get one over the French.

Scott Johnson, the Scottish interim coach, believes that he has the team that can make really complete the embarrassment of the French side.

"France? Wounded animals, aren't they? They are big beasts. A quality rugby nation who could have won all of their games.

"They say you shouldn't wake sleeping giants. But trust me, our intention is to wake them our way," Johnson said.

Players to watch:

For France: A player that should always be watched is Mathieu Bastareaud. The thick-set midfielder will be hoping to feed off fellow centre Wesley Fofana when they are going forward. Frederic Michalak will be another player to watch. The flyhalf has been poor by his own standards this season and will be hoping to end the season well. Louis Picamoles is a player that has shone brightly in a poor team this season and with his all-round skill and size he is a handful for any defence.

For Scotland: The back three for the Scots is where France should be watching. Hogg, Maitland and Visser have been on top of their game since they were brought together and they will hopefully be terrorising the French defence on the counter-attack. Amongst the forwards, Johnnie Beatie has been huge for the Scots and will be hoping to counter Picamoles both physically and skill wise.

Head to head: The No. 8 face-off must be the most exciting as Louis Picamoles (France) looks to continue his great run of form and Johnnie Beatie (Scotland) is going to try his hardest to counter him. Both players have been crucial to their sides campaigns this season and this will be a massive showdown. The hooker battle will also be exciting with the inform Benjamin Kayser (France) taking on former Lion Ross Ford (Scotland) up front. Both players are going to be responsible for making sure the set-piece is solid and also playing a role around the park that influences the game positively for their team.

Recent results:

2012: France won 23-17, Edinburgh
2011: France won 34-21, Paris
2010: France won 18-9, Edinburgh
2009: France won 22-13, Paris
2008: France won 27-6, Edinburgh
2007: France won 46-19, Paris
2006: Scotland won 20-16, Edinburgh:

Prediction:

The French have got a side that is filled with talent but they have not been able to harness this talent this season. This game could prove to be that and as well as playing in front of their home crowd could see winning the game. The Scots, who are coming off a loss to Wales in their previous game do not seem to have the same spark they had when they beat Ireland earlier in the tournament. In this fixture we think that France will win the game by 6 points.

Teams:

France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 6 Antonie Claassen, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Christophe Samson, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Gael Fickou.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans.

Date: Saturday, 16 March
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 22:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Weather: Cloudy day and evening in Paris predicted with a high of 8°c and a low of 4°c.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)

AFP & Rugby365

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Team P W D L Pts
England 5 4 0 1 19
Ireland 5 3 0 2 14
France 5 3 0 2 14
Scotland 5 3 0 2 14
Wales 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 0