All you need to know about the Group B match at BT Murrayfield
Autumn Nations Cup Scotland v France preview
It was always likely to come down to these two, but few would have suspected that we would have an Autumn Nations Cup Pool B decider this early. With France-Fiji called off last round and Scotland-Fiji a no-no next, this one at BT Murrayfield takes on greater significance.
Win at home, and Scotland can greedily eye the top of the group. But France will certainly be fired up for it.
Remember, Scotland beat France in the Six Nations, with les Bleus fans left wondering what could have been had tighthead Mohamed Haouas not seen red for punching Jamie Ritchie.
Yet last week’s call-off also means that France can pick a more recognisable side for this one – an agreement with the union and the National Rugby League (LNR) stipulated that players could not play in more than three of their six end-of-year Tests, but with the Fiji game off, big names like Antoine Dupont can take on the Scots.
Scotland’s defence excelled in the Six Nations but a near full-strength France (who miss Romain Ntamack at ten but retain red hot Dupont) poses much scarier problems. With threats all over, Scotland’s new masters of niggle must ensure that the visiting scrum-half cannot dictate tempo, or that Virimi Vakatawa and skipper Charles Ollivon do not get free reign.
They certainly aren’t taking this lightly, with boss Gregor Townsend hailing France as potentially the best team in the world, on current form.
Though it won’t be said outright, the hosts must be confident on the defensive side of the ball, and for good reason after their five-Test win streak. However, their players have also spoken about improving their work at the contact area and set-piece delivery, as against Italy they would have liked much more ball to play with.
Gregory Alldritt and France’s own king of nuisance, Bernard le Roux, will be lurking. Turnovers and defensive sets will mean nothing if it is one big wrestle for possession.
The penlaty count could well excede the number of clean breaks, but then again, the dreamers amongst us will hope to see both teams emulating their captains: with electric Stuart Hogg leading Scotland one way and all-court Ollivon hammering the other, rather than a match punctuated regularly by a referee’s whistle.
What’s the big team news?
Scotland have made five changes to their team, with the big one in the backline that Blair Kinghorn comes in for Darcy Graham on the wing.
Matt Fagerson returns at No 8, with Blade Thomson dropping to the bench. Up front, Oli Kebble starts, with Rory Sutherland out – Jamie Bhattie comes in as a replacement. Simon Berghan is at tighthead, with Zander Fagerson also a replacement. And Fraser Brown starts too.
Duncan Taylor makes his way onto the bench, and Sean Maitland returns to the fold as a replacement after a brief exile following the Barbarians covid-breach debacle.
As for France, they have made eight changes. Most notably Mathieu Jalibert starts at fly-half, with Romain Ntamack not fit. Louis Carbonel is the ten option on the bench.
There is also a front-row rotation. Jean-Baptiste Gros (gett a debut as a starter), Camille Chat and Demba Bamba are in the front line, with Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille and Mohamed Haouas – he of the red card last time versus Scotland – straining to get off the bench.
Dylan Cretin also gets his first start, in the back-row. And then at the back, Thomas Ramos comes in to play at 15.
What have the coaches said?
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend said: “The opportunity is about winning this game and what that would mean to this group in terms of getting into the final to play for first or second in a couple of weeks’ time. We know what a challenge France are going to bring – one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the world right now, so that’s all we’re thinking about.”
Fabien Galthie, the France head coach said that “the finishers come into this game with a lot of appetite,” adding that Mohamed Haouas – who was red carded against Scotland in their loss during the Six Nations – wants “to show what he can bring to the team and make amends for what happened that day.”
Any interesting statistics?
- 1990 – the Five Nations heroes of 1990 were the last Scottish side to win six Test matches in a row
- 28-0 – the win awarded to France with Fiji unable to play them last week due to 29 cases of Covid in their group.
- He only has five caps to his name and one previous start, but Matthieu Jalibert scored seven points against Scotland, coming off the bench in the Six Nations. He slotted a penalty and two conversions.
- Against Ireland in the Six Nations, Gregory Alldritt arrived at 83 defensive breakdowns – 22 more than any other player that day.
- Scotland beat France 28-17 in March – and last week they beat Italy by the exact same scoreline.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Scotland v France, Sunday 22 November, BT Murrayfield
The match kicks off at 3.15pm and will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Premier Sports in Ireland. There is also live match commentary on BBC Radio Scotland.
If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Autumn Nations Cup coverage around the world.
Experienced English ref Wayne Barnes will take charge of this, with countryman Matt Carley one assistant, and Wales’ Ben Whitehouse will serve as TMO. It is also a special day for the second assistant referee Nika Amashukeli, with the Georgian official getting to run the line in a Tier One Test.
What are the line-ups?
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain); Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Duncan Weir, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Blade Thomson, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Taylor, Sean Maitland.
France: Thomas Ramos; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Jean-Baptiste Gros, Camille Chat, Demba Bamba, Bernard le Roux, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille, Mohamed Haouas, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Couilloud, Louis Carbonel, Arthur Vincent.
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