Scotland defense coach Steve Tandy has identified French scrum half Antoine Dupont as a ‘world class’ talent and a threat to House hopes of reaching the fall Nations Cup final.
The Scots welcome the French to BT Murrayfield this afternoon and are looking to extend their winning streak to six tryouts. The visitors lost to Edinburgh in March, but have put in more than 30 points past both Wales and Ireland since rugby resumed and Dupont has been at the heart of it.
Tandy, who has toughened up Gregor Townsend’s side since joining the coaching staff in December, is full of admiration for the Toulouse scrum-half and knows Scotland must be at their best defensively to keep it under control.
“He’s pretty special isn’t he?” Tandy said. “He’s absolutely up there as a world class nine. It’s a danger, it can take people, it’s an excellent unloader, it can start with both feet.
“He sees space very quickly, so we know we can’t leave any separation in our defensive line. If you leave even a yard too much he’ll take you and drop you off and then you have the big guys able to sit around the winning line. This is where we need to be really on top of that melee zone.
“If he spots even a half a gap, he’s usually through. And if he succeeded, there is an unloading at the back.
Dupont lost his usual half-back Romain Ntamack to injury and Matthieu Jalibert will wear the No.10 jersey today. Scotland’s coaching staff were quick to denounce the stalemate, but losing a player of Ntamack’s quality in such a key position could prove revealing. Murrayfield’s game in March is France’s only loss this year and Ntamack lasted just ten minutes in Edinburgh before being replaced by Jalibert.
Bordeaux-Begles opener has started once before for France, but Tandy rates him strongly and shares many of the same qualities as Ntamack.
“Jalibert is an incredible player, I have seen him play in Europe and he is an exceptional footballer,” said Scotland’s assistant coach.
“With him and Ntamack they have quality 10s and if you start trying to pick one person apart, that’s where things go wrong with our plans for the team. Jalibert is like Ntamack, a great kicking game, he takes the ball to the line.
Tandy’s nomination was part of the coaching staff reshuffle after a disappointing World Cup in Japan where Scotland failed to break out of their squad. The former Ospreys head coach has clearly made a difference and says he enjoys working with Townsend whose natural instincts are more prone to attack.
“I love the way he sees the game,” Tandy said. “Sometimes the defense coaches want to take control of the team, but I think it’s my job to help the team and support what they want to do and how they want to attack, it doesn’t is not just a question of rigid defense. You have to adapt to the personality of the team and the coach.
“I think we have evolved since the World Cup and we just continue to work alongside him. Attack and defense must complement each other. “