Former France Head Coach Philippe Saint-Andre looks ahead to Sunday’s crunch clash between week 1 losers Scotland and France. Which team has the game and the desire the get the all important win?
This is a very big game for two teams that really need to win.
France are now 7 games without a victory and were unlucky to get beaten to Johnny Sexton’s magnificent drop goal. The feeling in Stade de France at the final whistle was very flat but looking back at the game, there is a lot that head coach Jacques Brunel and his squad can be positive about.
I was impressed by the organisation of the defence last week and the competitive spirit of a team that really looked fresh and motivated. The Irish were able to build a lead from some cheap French penalties, particularly from 2nd row Sébastien Vahaamahina, so if they can cut these out, they can become even tougher to beat. There are three changes for France and the reintroduction of Lyon outhalf Lionel Beauaix, who hasn’t played since I was head coach in 2012, is a surprise but he is a very wise, experienced playmaker who can help to keep this young team organised in a hostile away ground like Murrayfield.
For Scotland, it will be very hard to fix their game after the heavy defeat in Wales, especially as their front row is still so weak with injuries. They have made a lot of changes, with six new players and that, to me, says that coach Gregor Townsend is unsure of who his best XV are. They must try to win the forward battle but to do that, they need a game of very little set pieces, with lots of rucks and broken play. I think with two teams so desperate to win, there will be plenty of mistakes and that will suit France more. Scotland will hope that their fitness and pace out wide can make the difference in the last 20 minutes but it could be too late by then.
I think that in the end, the game will stay very tight until the end, when nerves play a part and after their experience in Paris against Ireland, I think the French team will be able to just last out this time for a narrow win.