Preview: France v Scotland

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 12:50
Large stuart hogg celebrates 2017 800

SIX NATIONS ROUND TWO: The showdown between France and Scotland in Paris will be a special occassion for Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg as he brings up a milestone in his international playing career.

At 24 years and 233 days, Hogg will surpass Richie Gray as the youngest player to reach a half-century of Scotland caps.
 
 "Congratulations to Hoggy [Stuart Hogg] on what will be a special milestone," Cotter said.
 
 "It's a fantastic personal achievement, especially at such a young age, which is a good indication of how talented an individual he is and how important he's been to Scotland teams over the past five years.
 
 "He's a very exciting player and, at just 24, he has a huge amount to offer Scotland for many more years to come."
 
 Aside from John Barclay replaced the injured Ryan Wilson, the pack is unchanged, with Fraser Brown keeping his place following his 25th-minute departure against Ireland due to an eye problem.
 
 "We're [France's] next opportunity to get their campaign up and running and they'll be intent on throwing every part of their considerable firepower at us on Sunday.
 
"We'll have to match their ferocity while ensuring we take that - and all the other battles we can expect in this game - on our terms, whether that's in collisions, in set-piece, at the breakdown or in the air," Cotter added.

For France, their defensive statistics better than England's with fewer errors and tackles missed. But for the third time in a matter of three months, they lost a closely-fought encounter against a top side following test defeats to Australia (23-25) and New Zealand (19-24) in November.

"It's true that against Australia we could have won but didn't, against New Zealand we had a chance at the end and lost by little, against England we lost at the end. It's annoying," said Noves.

They welcome a buoyant Scotland who were in fine form a week ago as they eased past highly-fancied Ireland 27-22 at Murrayfield.

"They [Scotland] had a tough year or two but now their work is starting to bear fruit. You can see that physically and technically they're not the same Scotland of a few years ago," Noves said of the Scots.

Two yeas ago, Scotland finished bottom of the table with five defeats from five but they have come on leaps and bounds since then under New Zealander Vern Cotter.

They were a minute away from knocking Australia out of the World Cup quarter-finals in late 2015, finished above France in the Six Nations last year and, having run Australia close again in November, they toppled Ireland in the opening round.

Players to watch:

For France: Fullback Scott Spedding was one of the standout players in their defeat to England and he will want to build on the standard he set. Guilhem Guirado needs to lead from the front if they are t to pick up a win while the industrious Louis Picamoles is certainly the man to keep an eye on.

For Scotland: Finn Russell ran riot in the second half against Ireland and will want to maintain that standard throughout the encounter while Greig Laidlaw's captaincy and kicking accuracy will surely keep his side's points ticking over. The Gray brothers have been a phenomenal partnership in the second row and will want to stamp themselves on this encounter.

Head to head: Scott Spedding and Stuart Hogg are both dynamic runners and given space, can inflict plenty of damage. The midfield battle between Gael Fickou and Huw Jones is an intriguing one while Camille Lopez will have a tough task of controlling Finn Russell. The biggest contest of the match comes at the back of the scrum where Josh Strauss will have his hands full with Louis Picamoles.

Recent results:

2016: Scotland won 29-18, Edinburgh
2015: France won 19-16, Paris
2015: France won 15-8, Paris
2014: France won 19-17, Edinburgh
2013: France won 23-16, Paris
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

Prediction: the match can certainly go either way and while it is hard to go against the home side, Scotland's victory in the opening round of the competition sways the advantage in their favour. Scotland should claim victory by about six points.

Teams:

France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Loann Goujon, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Xavier Chiocci, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Yoann Huget.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Hardie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.

Date: Sunday, February 12
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 16.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Minimal cloud cover with a gentle breeze. High of 9°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

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SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
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