And in a season marred by Covid, can’t we just be thankful that the Championship has taken place, with just one game revamped.
The two teams mirror each other in some ways with both countries hosting totemic demi-volants for the final dance at the Six Nations Ball this evening in Paris; the question remains whether Finn Russell or Romain Ntamack will be smiling / gurning at the side field cameras not coming aside?
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Both teams have scored 15 tries and both teams have conceded seven, which suggests that there is not too much between them.
The two coaches chose with defense at the forefront of their thinking. Despite Huw Jones ‘ heroic in the last two games, the away center almost certainly falls off the bench because Gregor Townsend don’t want to put it on Fallen farmersThe line of fire … at least not for the 80 minutes. Interestingly, Vakatawa has missed four tackles this season, at least suggesting that a new Jones could trouble the tired French late in the game.
For France, Fabien Galthie dropped the attack wonder that is Teddy Thomas and bypassed Gael Fickou to the wing. Fickou is one of France’s defensive leaders and when asked why he was moved to the wider channel, Galthie specifically mentioned the offensive threat posed by “very athletic players”, for which read 105kgs of Duhan van der Merwe. Oddly enough, as it stands, the Flying Saffa will face Damian Penaud Unless Fickou wears 11 but appears on the right wing to mark Scotland’s man in danger?
Anyone who ends up keeping an eye on van der Merwe will also try to exploit the South African habit of becoming AWOL in defense.
France are gearing up for RWC’23, as we all know, and their first Championship win in 11 years would be a milestone on the path, especially after the Welsh forwards held hands with the whip for much of the game. from last weekend. Being beaten by the aging Welsh squad is a bad sign for any team, but calamitous for a team that claims to win the big one.
With Paul Willemse banned from eye contact in the Wales game, Galthie made the surprising decision to drop her other big lock beast Romain Taofifénua in favor of Swan Rebbadj who is more of a tall, lean, athletic type of player, but without the same impact in tight rallies.
This is important because cleared of their two biggest locks (Taofifénua and Willemse), the scrum of France, which has already squeaked worryingly in this campaign, will be the subject of a new examination by Scotland. The free head of France Cyril Baille Questions will notably be asked by Zander Fagerson.
The young Scotsman tends to concede a few penalties too much for my liking, but when the mood takes him, Fagerson can be a terribly destructive jerk and Baille is best known for his athletic prowess on the pitch rather than his kicking scrum. stopped. Without the bulk of Taofifénua / Willemse behind him, Baille seems isolated and more than a little vulnerable. Scotland need to take a toe in the game somewhere and the set scrum looks like the most promising opportunity.
If you think this is speculation, you are right, but the speculation is backed up by some important statistics. Taofifénua and Willemse tip the scales at 135 kg (give or take the strange bag of sugar) while Bernard Le Roux and Rabbadj both weigh around 115kg, so this French pack is missing around 40kg (around six ancient silver stones) of muscle mass.
Incidentally, Willemse was also France’s first tackle in this championship with 70 to his name, six more than flanker / captain. Charles Ollivon, which is good for a big chunk.
And France is a lot like England in at least one way… take their set piece off and it’s like putting a silver sword in a vampire’s heart. If they lose the fray, it is not clear that France will continue to get rid of everything elsewhere.
If their fixed scrum drops anchor, France remains a clear favorite if only thanks to Scotland’s sad record in Paris without a win this millennium.
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The 2020-2021 Offside Line Season Call
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This French team is dangerous not because they can play rugby tight or loose, although they can, but because they can move from one state of mind to another faster than anyone, no only defense on offense, but also runners to one out to move the ball to pace to exploit an opportunity elsewhere.
So in their own half, the Scots will expect big front runners, but if there is a lag, dog’s paw or wide gap, France’s half-back partnership can recognize it and take it. space so quickly that the opposition race often clings to the shadows. .
Three of the top four offloaders are French, so the Scots will look to wrap the ball around in the tackle whenever possible.
The cards are stacked in favor of France, they have breakers in the squad, a home advantage and the world’s best rugby player in Antoine Dupont, but they are also missing a huge amount of muscle in their five not so tight.
If Scotland can exploit this literal weakness, especially in the set scrum, Townsend’s side could undermine the ever-fragile French psyche and end with a rare bloom.
France v Scotland: Stuart Hogg hacked for lack of respect