Townsend and Scotland brace for 'la Combat' as Les Bleus head north

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The former Brive, Castres and Montpellier fly-half is faced, however, with a near blank playbook ahead of Scotland’s Six Nations clash with France in Edinburgh on Sunday.

France are undergoing something of a reformation under recently appointed coach Jacques Brunel, meaning Townsend has little to learn from watching their defeats by Japan, South Africa and New Zealand in November when the since sacked Guy Noves was in charge.

“We’ve asked ourselves, ‘how much do we watch from November’, with a different coaching group,” said Townsend.

“Obviously there is a certain expectation of the French national team to play a certain way — ‘combat’ as they call it.

“The set piece, the forward exchanges, the big hits around the tackle area are very important to French rugby players, their supporters and their club coaches.”

Townsend in his playing days for Castres

Townsend in his playing days for Castres

The Scotland coach said his time in France was “pivotal” in his development as a player and a manager, and he is now up against Brunel who already has international experience from taking charge of Italy between 2011-2016.

“Jacques Brunel is a very experienced coach and you could tell throughout the game last week that France got better the more they were playing together,” said Townsend.

“It must be a tough job bringing the French team together from more clubs, different ways of playing, but they look to have improved throughout that 80 minutes which is a good sign for them.

“There are two different psychologies in the French team, from the clubs and from the national team. There is a ‘win at all costs’ mentality at some clubs.”

Townsend will have little more than his knowledge of the French game and a recording of France’s last-gasp 13-15 loss to Ireland to help him overcome Scotland’s own psychological barrier of a heavy 34-7 loss to Wales in Cardiff during last weekend’s opening round of fixtures.

“There were a couple of things from Saturday’s game against Ireland which had similar themes that we saw in November,” said Townsend.

“One is around competing for the ball post-tackle and that is something that they (France) do more than other teams, so we have got to be very wary of that.

“We are certainly aware that if France get any momentum and confidence they are very, very dangerous. That is when they execute their backline plays, their three-on-twos, better than anyone else in the world.

Townsend expects a physical onslaught from France

Townsend expects a physical onslaught from France

“If they get an early score their chests go out, their shoulders go back and they can play outstanding rugby.”

Townsend added: “If we can make sure that that confidence doesn’t come early in the game and we can keep making that work through defending very well, and knocking their big men down — because they have got very big men — they will have to get up off the floor while we’ve got the ball.

“We will be stressing them with whatever rugby we play, and we’ll make sure that they are working harder than they have ever worked before, and that is where we can have the advantage.”

Scotland (15-1): S Hogg, T Seymour, H Jones, P Horne, S Maitland; F Russell, G Laidlaw; R Wilson, H Watson, J Barclay (c); J Gray, G Gilchrist, S Berghan, S McInally, G Reid. Reps: S Lawson, J Bhatti, J Welsh, B Toolis, D Denton, A Price, C Harris, B Kinghorn.

France (15-1): G Palis, T Thomas, R Lamerat, G Doumayrou, V Vakatawa; L Beauxis, M Machenaud; M Tauleigne, Y Camara, W Lauret; S Vahaamahina, A Iturria, R Slimani, G Guirado (c), J Poirot.  Reps: A Pelissié, E Ben Arous, C Gomes Sa, P Gabrillagues, L Picamoles, B Serin,  A Belleau, B Fall

Referee: John Lacey (IRE);

Venue: Murrayfield;

Kick-off: 19:00;

Live on beIN Sports

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Six Nations: England forward Courtney Lawes is up for Rhys Patchell hunt against Wales

David Cooper 10/02/2018
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Courtney Lawes (c) in action for England in Italy.

Courtney Lawes insists England enter Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Wales intent on unsettling Rhys Patchell.

Eddie Jones has questioned whether Patchell, his team’s third choice fly-half, has the “bottle” to reproduce his heroics in the round one thumping of Scotland in the more challenging environment of Twickenham.

Lawes is England’s most ferocious tackler, but the Northampton lock insists England will “hunt” Wales as a collective rather than look to rely on any one player.

“Patchell’s a good player. He’s quick and he’s got some skills, but as a team we’ll put him under pressure and make it very difficult for him,” Lawes said.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 06:  Rhys Patchell of Wales during a training session at Vale of Glamorgan on February 6, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Rhys Patchell will feel like he has a target on his back at Twickenham.

“We’re hunting Wales this week. It honestly doesn’t matter who is running down my channel or who is in front of me, I’m there to do my job and make an effective tackle.

“But I’m not going to fly out of the line and try to make a difference myself. That’s not what the team needs from me. We’re going to get off the line and hunt Wales as a team.

“We have prepared very diligently and we know their key men and the people we need to keep an eye on.

“They have great players throughout their team and it is on us to be able to contain them and put pressure back on them.”

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Six Nations: Is the wrong Kiwi getting the credit for Wales’ revival?

Alex Broun 9/02/2018
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Wales and British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is smart enough to give credit where credit is due.

He has cast his eye over his domain and identified one of the four Welsh province’s, the Scarlets, performing superbly and doing so by playing an eye-catching brand of attacking rugby.

So why try to re-invent the wheel? Instead Gatland has simply done the smart thing – swap 12 of those Scarlets’ jerseys for a slightly brighter shade of red as a good dozen Llanelli players turn out for his national line up against England on Saturday.

It would be 14 if Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies were fit.

But it has made the New Zealand coach of Scarlets, Wayne Pivac’s job a little bit harder. The ex-policeman has becomes a victim of his own success as he tries to run training sessions without a dozen of his stars.

Ten of Pivac’s team were in the starting line-up that hammered Scotland 34-7 and announced Wales as a surprise contender for 2018 Six Nations glory.

But as a result, with other players also absent on Wales Under-20 duty, Pivac and his other coaches have been pressed into service at training as defenders.

Wayne Pivac (l) in his Auckland days with co-coach Grant Fox.

Wayne Pivac (l) in his Auckland days with co-coach Grant Fox.

“That was tough work,” admitted Pivac to The Times after a recent training run. “When they see the coaches standing out there in front of them, they run even harder at you.”

Playing a brand of rugby that has been as entertaining as it has been effective, the Scarlets won the PRO14 title last season and recently became the first Welsh region for six years to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.

But Pivac has no malice to his fellow Kiwi for capitalizing on his success.

“It’s been pretty smart from Warren,” says Pivac, “he’s put a lot of Scarlets in, he’s backed the boys and they’ve repaid the faith he’s put in them. We all take a lot of pride seeing so many Scarlets in the national team.”

The Scarlets current success marks the end of a long journey for Pivac.

Llanelli skipper Delme Thomas is carried shoulder-high from Stradey Park after the famous 1972 victory over the All Blacks.

Llanelli skipper Delme Thomas is carried shoulder-high from Stradey Park after the famous 1972 victory over the All Blacks.

Growing up in Auckland he could never have imagined that one day he would coach the small town in west Wales, Llanelli, that in October 1972 beat the touring All Blacks 9-3 at a full-to-bursting Stradey Park.

Pivac came to the Scarlets from the Auckland ITM Cup team three and a half years ago, originally as forwards coach, then taking over as head coach when Simon Easterby moved to Ireland.

The 56-year-old says he hasn’t done anything new at Scarlets, just re-awoken the region’s rich heritage for attacking rugby.

“It’s in the DNA of Llanelli from the old days,” he says. “They liked to move the ball out. If you look at videos of the Auckland teams I used to coach, that’s exactly how we played. So connecting that stuff with this club wasn’t a difficult choice.”

Pivac’s own preference for an expansive style can be traced back to his days with North Harbour under Peter Thorburn.

Since arriving at the Scarlets, Pivac has spent long hours developing the handling skills of his pack. The results could be seen on Saturday against Scotland, when prop Samson Lee was regularly executing flip-passes.

Stephen Jones has made a big difference to the Scarlets' backs.

Stephen Jones has made a big difference to the Scarlets’ backs.

Pivac has also been helped by the arrival of former Wales No10 Stephen Jones as attack coach.

“Stephen was an influential figure to bring on board,” Pivac says. “We really wanted to drive the passion for the jersey in this club.

“The history of the 9-3, the Bennetts, the Gravells, we really played on that.

“We’d ask the players, when was the last time history was created? How about we create our own history and put a smile on people’s faces?”

The Scarlets’ brand of free-flowing rugby has certainly put smiles on faces at Parc y Scarlets and hopefully will put more smiles on Welsh faces at Twickenham on Saturday.

For Pivac the reward may come after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan when most people expect him to succeed Gatland as national coach with the New Zealand-led Wales dynasty set to continue.

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