After consecutive wins in which they’ve looked sharp, enterprising and defensively strong, France should be favourites to beat Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
But be aware that Scotland, who’ve won their last two Six Nations games against France, are a vastly improved side than in recent years, and despite beating Italy (37-10 and Ireland 30-24), the French can’t afford to be complacent, and certainly not at Murrayfield.
Coach Gregor Townsend has been unfortunate in his preparations because of injuries to major players who’ve helped to turn the Scots into a highly competitive unit.
For example, prop forward Rory Sutherland,18 appearances and a British and Irish Lion, misses the France match with a rib injury and second row Jonny Gray, capped 66 times, has injured his foot playing for Exeter Chiefs.
In fact, Gray, one of the best forwards in the Premiership, will miss the rest of the Six Nations, a big blow to Scotland as he’s been one of his country’s most consistent performers.
Townsend has, therefore, been forced to bring in six additional players to his squad for Saturday’s contest which ought to be an entertaining game as both teams like to keep the ball alive.
Having beaten the challenge England put on at Murrayfield by 20-17 and then losing narrowly in Cardiff by 20-17, Scotland are overall making solid progress, and from a betting point of view, it’s a shame they have been weakened by injuries which in turn strengthen France’s position.
France fighting to win first championship since 2010
Top of the table on nine points and in attack looking the most threatening team in the Six Nations having scored seven tries, France are so well placed to win a Grand Slam and must be favourites at this stage to do so.
From what we’ve see in this campaign so far, the French are much more mature, seem mentally and physically focused and have match winning players throughout the team..whether that’s half backs Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack or forwards Cameron Woki and Gregory Alldritt, arguably the world’s best number eight.
One aspect of France’s style that Townsend will have been concentrating on is how to smash their defence which is rock hard because of all the constant work that Shaun Edwards (defence coach) puts in with both forwards and backs.
Interestingly, the last two Six Nations games between France and Scotland have been close affairs, and now that the French have what many experts believe is the outstanding team in the tournament, there should be no repeat of the Scottish wins by 28-17 in Murrayfield in 2021 and then by 27-23 in Paris last year.
Internationals between the two nations started before the First World War with the first meeting in 1910, and all together 98 Tests have been played – France winning 56 and the Scots 39 with three drawn.
Scotland must be disciplined and make sure they give France’s full back and top-class goal kicker, Melvyn Jaminet, as few penalty attempts as possible.
Jaminet doesn’t miss very often, and against Ireland he put over six penalties and a conversion..20 points out of the 30 scored against Ireland.