Match preview – Scotland vs France

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Can Blair Kinghorn and Scotland catch up to France again at Murrayfield? Or will Virimi Vakatawa and his teammates be too strong?

We take a look at some of the talking points ahead of Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup test between Scotland and France at Murrayfield…

Jalibert has a crack as France rings the bell

Matthieu Jalibert, 22, from Bordeaux-Begles, replaced injured Romain Ntamack at half-time among eight changes from the French side to face Scotland.

The French full-back Anthony Bouthier also injured, Thomas Ramos intervenes and will take over.

“We spoke with Matthew [Jalibert], he wants to be a regular starter, ”said coach Fabien Galthie. It’s his turn now and he knows what to do. ”

22-year-old French demi-fly Matthieu Jalibert had an opportunity

22-year-old French half-butterfly Matthieu Jalibert had an opportunity

Teddy Thomas was brought back to the right wing and Vincent Rattez moved to the left, allowing Gael Fickou to return to midfield alongside Virimi Vakatawa.

The powerful and quick Fickou was deployed on the wing in the 35-27 victory over Ireland three weeks ago at the Six Nations, which saw France finish in second place.

Flanker Dylan Cretin replaced François Cros, injured, and bolt Romain Taofifenua replaced Paul Willemse.

The first row is also getting a new look since Jean-Baptiste Gros, Camille Chat and Demba Bamba have swapped Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand and Mohamed Haouas.

“We had to change our team to have more movement and to freshen things up,” added Galthie.

Fabien Galthie sounded the changes of his France team for Sunday's test

Fabien Galthie sounded the changes of his France team for Sunday’s test

“All of this helps us to grow, to make all our players stronger. What makes us happy is that there are players emerging on our side.

“It gives us confidence in our desire to become a great world rugby nation again. ”

France is coming out of the back of its previous Test against Fiji after being canceled due to coronavirus cases in the Fiji camp. France won a 28-0 victory.

Scotland’s winning race – history in their sights?

Scotland handed France their only loss at the Six Nations 2020, winning 28-17 at Murrayfield on March 8 before the Covid-19 crisis brought the sport to an end.

The Scots have won five consecutive tests and another Sunday would equal their national record set only in 1925-26 and 1989-90.

The victory over Italy in Florence last time for Stuart Hogg and co was their fifth consecutive victory

The victory over Italy in Florence last time for Stuart Hogg and co was their fifth consecutive victory

However, head coach Gregor Townsend insists they are more motivated by winning the tournament than making history.

The winner at Murrayfield will be the favorite to reach the fall Nations Cup play-off final.

“The opportunity is to win this game and what that would mean for this group in terms of qualifying for the final to play for the first or second in a few weeks,” Townsend said.

“We know what a challenge France is going to bring us: one of the best teams, if not the best team in the world right now, so that’s all we can think of. “

Head Coach Gregor Townsend looks at the Scottish Fall Nations Cup silverware

Head coach Gregor Townsend looks at the fall Nations Cup silverware for Scotland

Like France, Townsend picked an all-new front row from Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan, while selecting Matt Fagerson in 8th place after injuring his ankle in the win over Georgia last month.

The only change in the back line sees Blair Kinghorn brought to the right wing in place of Edinburgh teammate Darcy Graham.

Saracens backers Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor – the latter last appeared at the 2019 Rugby World Cup – are also joining the replacements.

Can Scotland catch up with France again in Edinburgh?

Scotland ended France’s Grand Slam hopes when they became the only team so far this year to topple them in the spring.

Their outlook was greatly improved that afternoon when French leader Mohamed Haouas was sent off for hitting Jamie Ritchie, but Townsend insists his team were already on their way to victory as it was against 15 men.

Mohamed Haouas' red card for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face left France on a difficult climb from which they could not return

Mohamed Haouas’ red card for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face left France on a difficult climb from which they could not return

“We played well that day in March and we were playing well before the red card,” Townsend said.

“I think we took a 6-0 lead and got into our rhythm in attack and defense.

“It was a very good game. I think the red card caused France to attack more than in other games – it was the lowest of the year, which may cause you more problems.

“But I felt we had seized our opportunity just before half-time, and a few minutes after half-time we gave ourselves a bit of a break on the scoreboard, and the players handled very well the game after that.

“We could have done better. There were some chances we missed later in the game to get another try, but it was definitely our best team performance of the year, especially in defense. “

France's loss to Murrayfield in March put an end to dreams of a Six Nations Grand Slam

France’s loss to Murrayfield in March put an end to dreams of a Six Nations Grand Slam

It will take another very tough display at the back for the Scots to steer clear of France at full load this weekend, with Galthie abandoning plans to leave his heavy hitters at home after watching their home game. Group B opening against the Fijians canceled.

Townsend fully understands the scale of the challenge his team face, but has supported his players to overcome it.

“I don’t know how happy is the word I would use after seeing their team, but you want to play the best teams when everyone is available.

“We had to play New Zealand this weekend before the world changed and normally when you play New Zealand they are ranked number one in the world.

“We now have the opportunity to play against France which is the best team in the world in terms of results since the World Cup.

Scotland remain the only team to beat France in 2020 so far

Scotland remain the only team to beat France in 2020 so far

“So you want to see where you are when you go up against the best teams, because the wins are even more special.

“It created real focus and an advantage in training. It looks like a real Six Nations game even though it’s the Fall Nations Cup because France is playing so well and they brought their best players. “

Team news

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Blair Kinghorn, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Ali Price; 1 Oli Kebble, 2 Fraser Brown, 3 Simon Berghan, 4 Scott Cummings, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Matt Fagerson.

Substitutes: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sean Maitland.

France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont; 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 2 Camille Chat, 3 Demba Bamba, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 6 Dylan Cretin, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 8 Gregory Alldritt.

Substitutes: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Cameron Woki, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Arthur Vincent.

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