France To Flounder Against Scots
France v Scotland
France open their Six Nations campaign with tricky-looking home game against Scotland at the Stade De France.
2014 was a year of typically inconsistent results for France. They kicked off their 6 Nations campaign with a victory over England, but slipped up against Wales and Ireland, and lost all three Tests on their summer tour of Australia. They kicked off their autumn internationals by thrashing Fiji, and followed up a narrow win over the Wallabies, before crashing to a 13-18 defeat to Argentina.
Following another lacklustre 6 Nations campaign, Scotland have shown signs of improvement under Vern Cotter. They won three out of four on their summer tour, began their autumn internationals with an encouraging 41-31 victory over Argentina and then battled hard to hold the All-Blacks to an eight point victory before signing off with an emphatic 37-12 win over Tonga.
France will be missing scrum-half Sebastian Tillous-Borde, centre Alexandre Dumoulin and number eight Louis Picamoles, and there has been some uncertainty over Philippe Saint-Andre’s selection strategy after Gael Fickou and Wenceslas Lauret were initially released from the squad, then recalled. Full back Brice Dulin has also been called up after impressing for Racing Metro at the weekend.
Scotland will be without key players David Denton and Sean Maitland who picked up injuries in European matches last weekend. Flanker Ryan Wilson has been suspended following his assault conviction, but prop Ryan Grant has rejoined the Scottish squad after his acquittal. New Zealand-born flanker Hugh Blake has also been added to the squad, despite having yet to play for his new club Edinburgh.
Head to head
Since the beginning of the 6 Nations, France have dominated this fixture, winning fourteen of their fifteen games against Scotland and are currently on a run of eight straight wins against the Scots.
Scotland’s only win against the French came at Murrayfield in 2006, when they survived a second half French comeback to win 20-16. They have lost their last seven matches at the Stade de France and haven’t won in Paris this century.
But they nearly caused an upset last year in Edinburgh. First half tries from Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour helped them to a 14-9 lead and they were still ahead with two minutes to go before France saved themselves with a last ditch penalty.
Scotland have a poor record in Paris, but under Vern Cotter they have started to look like the kind of team who can punch above their weight and the French should be wary of underestimating their opponents this weekend.
As ever, it is hard to know what to expect from France. It would be no surprise if they started sluggishly, and you can be sure Scotland will make them work hard right to the final whistle. I think this game could be closer than the market expects and Scotland +9 looks good value at 10/11 in the Match Handicap market.