Can les Bleus maintain their Grand Slam bid? Or will the Scots make it three wins in a row against the French?

Six Nations Scotland v France Preview

Scotland have made a habit of recording historic victories in the last couple of years, ending long losing runs in Wales, Paris and Twickenham. They will buck a similar trend should they end France’s hopes of a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2010 at BT Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon.

The Scots have a decent recent record against France in the Six Nations, winning four of their last six meetings. That includes their last two – 28-17 in Edinburgh in 2020, when Mohamed Haouas was sent off, and last year’s first win (27-23) in Paris since 1999.

However, they haven’t won three in a row against les Bleus in the championship since the 1950s (1956-58). Can they defy the history books again this weekend?

There will surely be a reaction from their disappointing defeat in Cardiff in the last round, just as Wales delivered a reaction to their disappointing defeat in Dublin by beating Scotland. The fervour of the Murrayfield crowd should create a brilliant atmosphere and the midfield collisions could be mighty with Sione Tuipulotu going up against fit-again Jonathan Danty.

Yet the settled side with which Gregor Townsend was able to start the championship has been disrupted by injury, particularly in the pack with Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Jonny Gray and Matt Fagerson sidelined, while Hamish Watson had to pull out on Friday due to Covid. We’ll soon find out how that affects the hosts’ 100% records on their own throw/feed in the lineout and scrum. If they struggle for clean first-phase ball, Finn Russell will find it harder to weave his spells while on the back foot.

France may be missing their dynamo out wide – Gabin Villiere, the top try-scorer in the championship to date – but even without him their back-line can produce plenty of magic.

Antoine Dupont has yet to show his best in this Six Nations as he builds his match fitness back up but there have still been flashes of his genius, while if Scotland are as ill-disciplined as they were in the second half in Cardiff, Melvyn Jaminet will gratefully line up shots at goal.

Look out for the likes of Danty, Uini Atonio and Gregory Alldritt busting holes and creating try-scoring opportunities for those in support.

Related: Six Nations Analysis – Broken field tries

If the Scots can keep those strong carriers in check, they will stay in the game and look to the likes of Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe to cause the French defence problems. After all, this match could come down to one decisive moment, just as it did in Paris a year ago with van der Merwe’s late try.

Here’s all you need to know in our Scotland v France preview…

What’s the big team news?

Injuries have led to two changes in the Scotland pack. Magnus Bradbury comes in at No 8 for the injured Matt Fagerson while Sam Skinner’s move from the back to the second row due to Jonny Gray’s injury sees Rory Darge earn his first start at flanker.

He was originally picked at blindside but after Hamish Watson returned a positive Covid test on the eve of the match Drage switched to the openside, with Nick Haining coming in at six and the uncapped Andy Christie brought onto the bench.

Another change comes in the front row, where Zander Fagerson starts at tighthead prop as WP Nel drops to the replacements’ bench.

The back-line is unchanged from the one that lost to Wales in round two while on the bench Mark Bennett is in line to win his first cap since 2018.

There is just one change to the France line-up that beat Ireland last time out. Jonathan Danty returns at inside-centre after recovering from injury and partners Gael Fickou in midfield.

Danty’s replacement against the Irish, Yoram Moefana, shifts out to the wing as Gabin Villiere has been ruled out with a sinus injury.

What have the coaches said?

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “We believe in our team but it is our last chance to be in the race for a trophy at the end of the season.

“We believe in our group so we have to put everything into this at the weekend and deliver what we’re capable of delivering.

“They’re one of the top two or three teams in the world right now. They’ve got a huge pack, momentum behind them, results behind them, so it’s a great challenge for us.

“They’ll be raring to go. But I’ve seen our group rise to this challenge in the past and I’m sure we’ll do that again.”

France head coach Fabien Galthie: “Scotland will field very powerful threequarters with a very direct game, based around (Finn) Russell. There will be a lot at stake in terms of physical dominance. It will be crucial to stand up blow for blow to their backs, who are very quick and strong, and with their two wingers who are walking on water at the moment.

“Scotland is our only defeat at home in France. They are a team that gives us problems and we are aware of the level that we will have to be able to put in all sectors of the game to compete.”

Any interesting statistics?

  • France (2260.8) and Scotland (1907.4) are the teams that have kicked the most metres in the 2022 championship
  • The two teams have also beaten the most defenders this year, Scotland with 42 and France 39. Darcy Graham (nine) tops the charts for the most defenders beaten
  • In defence, these sides have the best tackle success rates of any of the teams in this Six Nations, Scotland 93% and France 92%
  • Gregory Alldritt, with 30, has made more carries than any other player in this year’s Six Nations to date
  • Hamish Watson hasn’t missed a tackle in the championship since 2019, making 163 tackles in a row at the last count, although he won’t be making any against France after his late withdrawal

What time does it kick off and is it on TV?

Scotland v France, Saturday 26 March, BT Murrayfield

The opening match of round three kicks off at 2.15pm in Edinburgh and is live on BBC One and Virgin Media One. Or listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.

England’s Karl Dickson is taking charge of this match, with Luke Pearce and Chris Busby his assistants. Tom Foley is the TMO.

What are the line-ups?

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Rory Darge, Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: George Turner, Oli Kebble, WP Nel, Jamie Hodgson, Andy Christie, Ben White, Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett.

France: Melvyn Jaminet; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Cyril Baille, Julian Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos.

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