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

Sport360 staff 15:25 10/02/2018
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It's been a tournament of highs and lows for Gregor Townsend's Scotland.

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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