The Scotland coach Gregor Townsend speaks to Amazon: “We were disappointed to hear that our final game [against Fiji] will be called off … but we were focusing on this game … France are so full of confidence just now that we’ll have to be our best to win. We have to make sure we don’t give France any easy opportunities. They’ve been pragmatic this year, they’ve looked for counterattack ball … we need to ‘look after’ two or three individuals.”
Betsen gives his thoughts on Jalibert, the 22-year-old France fly-half: “He needs to stand out today … he shows great leadership playing for Bordeaux … today he is going to start as first-choice and he has to show his progressing talent … he’s a bit arrogant, and he needs to control that energy.”
John Barclay speaking on Amazon about how this Scottish side is shaping up: “When Gregor Townsend came in there was a clear plan to make Scotland very attacking, a global force, and it worked for a while … but before the World Cup it was clear we needed to make our defence better, our kick-chase better … but now they’re starting to understand that you don’t need to score five or six tries, it’s winning matches that’s important.”
As I mentioned, Scotland captain Stuart Hogg is planning to take it to France today:
“We are aware of what’s potentially on the line,” he said. “But we’re focusing on the first 20 minutes. We’ll take it quarter by quarter. We can’t look too far ahead or else we’ll slip up. We need to be there from minute one. Hopefully the French will tire and we can really take the game to them. We have to be in a position to keep going after them time and time again and not get bored of it.”
Amazon have drafted in some big guns for pundit duty: Bryan Habana, Serge Betsen and John Barclay.
“Jonny May’s [second] try was average,” jokes Barclay as the panel discuss that England win against Ireland yesterday.
“The back row were immense. Underhill was immense. Their rush defence was really positive,” adds Betsen.
If you missed it, Wales scored a much-needed win against Georgia in Llanelli last night. Louis Rees-Zammit of Gloucester scored a try on his debut and James Botham, grandson of Ian, had a very impressive game at No 6. Here is Paul Rees’ match report:
at 9.31am EST
Gregor Townsend makes five changes for Scotland. Blair Kinghorn comes in for Darcy Graham on the wing, and fit-again Matt Fagerson starts at No 8. In the pack it’s an entirely freshened-up front row: Fraser Brown at hooker, alongside Oli Kebble and Simon Berghan.
For France, fly-half Romain Ntamack misses out with a thigh injury, meaning the 22-year-old Matthieu Jalibert of Bordeaux makes only his second start. Teddy Thomas is back on the wing with Gaël Fickou moving into the centres, and Thomas Ramos returns at full-back with Anthony Bouthier out injured.
Scotland: Hogg (c); Kinghorn, Harris, Johnson, Van der Merwe, Weir, Price; Kebble, Brown, Berghan; Cummings, Gray; Ritchie, Watson, M Fagerson. Replacements: Turner, Bhatti, Z Fagerson, Skinner, Thomson, Hidalgo-Clyne, Taylor, Maitland.
France: Ramos; Thomas, Vakatawa, Fickou, Rattez; Jalibert, Dupont; Gros, Chat, Bamba; Le Roux, Taofifenua; Cretin, Ollivon (c), Alldritt. Replacements: Marchand, Baille, Haouas, Willemse, Woki, Couilloud, Carbonel, Vincent
Things are looking up for Scotland. Victory today would make it six in a row for only the third time in their history, matching the famous grand slam-winning sides of 1925 and 1990. Their captain Stuart Hogg has been talking up his team’s increased passion for defending before today’s match against France, which is effectively a shoot-out for a place in the final of the Autumn Nations Cup. Their tackling and defensive shape will need to be on point this afternoon because you’re only ever one outrageous offload away from embarrassment against Les Bleus.
On which note: things are looking up for France, too, so today has all the makings of a thriller. Under the impressive stewardship of Fabien Galthié, Raphaël Ibañez and defence coach Shaun Edwards, they played some lovely stuff during the pandemic-disrupted Six Nations, smashing England in Paris and edging past Wales in Cardiff in February before outclassing Ireland last month. The scrum-half Antoine Dupont richly deserved his Six Nations player of the tournament award. It’s a brand-new tournament and it’s live on Amazon Prime, so it all feels quite unfamiliar, but let’s hope for some good old-fashioned drama this afternoon.
Kick-off is at 3.15pm. Team news, pre-match reading and more to follow.
at 9.41am EST