The Scot’s got over the line by the finest of margins vs Wales but now face an angered French side at Murrayfield (Saturday 14:15) with their backs against the wall. As always, our ace Rugby Union tipster Alex Cox @UKRugbybets is back with his preview and betting predictions.
The opening weekend of the Six Nations brought contrasting results for Scotland and France, making this a fascinating encounter at Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon. Despite a second half implosion, in which they gave away 17 penalties in a row and 26 unanswered points, the Scot’s held on to win by a point and break their Cardiff curse.
Over in Marseille, France were outplayed by a brilliant Ireland side, making this game a must-win if they want any chance of winning the Title this year.
The big question around Scotland this weekend is if we’ll see a performance like the first half or second half vs Wales. One half was bursting with seamless game management, creativity and ruthless finishing. The other was lacklustre, ill-disciplined and filled by panic.
France have their own questions to answer. Is there a lingering hangover from their unsuccessful World Cup campaign? Are they missing a crucial edge with Dupont not playing at 9? We will find out these answers in due course but the French have not become a poor side overnight and they still possess star power across the park, with the experience needed to get this Six Nations campaign back on track. Lucu and Jalibert need a big performance and I think they will deliver.
The Scot’s have a settled side and only make two changes to their starting XV. Those are both forced changes after Richie Gray and Luke Crosbie were unfortunately injured against Wales. In their place, Townsend has called upon Grant Gilchrist to slot into Lock and Rory Darge into Flanker. Darge was picked as co-captain last month along with Finn Russell, however was recovering from injury and therefore not available for the Wales fixture.
The backline is unchanged, meaning Kyle Rowe continues in the unfamiliar position of Fullback. He stood up to the challenge last weekend, but the French are a few steps up so he will certainly be tested once again on Saturday.
Finn Russell is the brains and creativity that get the backs moving and the French defensive line – of whom he knows all too well from his spell at Racing 92 – will be targeting his Ribs for the full 80 minutes. Whether he can evade the clutches of Ollivon, Cros, Danty and co, will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game.
There are also two changes to the French side that played against Ireland. The first of those is enforced with Paul Willemse suspended after his red card last weekend. Woki slots straight into his place at Lock. Although the pack lose some ballast and weight up-front, they gain a lineout master and a dynamic player in the loose.
The other change is in the back line, with Galthie making a tactical change to start wonderkid Bielle-Biarrey on the left wing in replace of Moefana. Louis Bielle-Biarrey is one of the most exciting young players in World Rugby currently and will give France some x-factor out wide. He also has a telepathic connection with his Bordeaux club mate Jalibert, so look for those two to link up.
France -3.5 Handicap @ 5/6
Scotland HT/France FT @ 7/1
This will certainly be a colossal contest at Murrayfield, but I believe we will see the French find an extra gear this week. They have been backed into a corner and I think they are going to spring out and start throwing punches – although hopefully not literally as they need all 15 players on the field this week!
I wrote last week about the inability of Scotland playing to a high level for a full 80 minutes, which we saw in spades vs Wales. It is their Achilles heel and the French have the firepower and ruthless edge to capitalize once the Scottish concentrate and intensity drops – which evidence suggest it will do.
It will be a tight first half but I think the French will pull clear in the second half and cover the -3.5 handicap. For a bigger priced punt, there is value in the double result too Scotland HT / France FT @ 7/1.
You can read all Alex's Rugby Union Betting Tips at our Insights hub.