France play for title against a Scottish side gunning for 2nd place
A dramatic last-gasp victory over Wales Saturday kept alive French hopes of a first Six Nations title since 2010 – an improbable but not impossible task. A bonus-point victory with a 21-point margin is needed Friday against a Scotland team playing for their highest-placed Six Nations finish since 1999.
Eight-two minutes on the clock, a resilient but fatigued Welsh defence were finally breached by Brice Dulin’s try. A heart-breaking moment for Wayne Pivac’s team, the contrast in emotions from the two teams was stark. Welsh players lay strewn on the turf of the Stade de France with captain, Alun-Wyn Jones, left staring at the sky with a look that mirrored the emotional emptiness of a country who had come so close to one of the most unlikely Grand Slam victories in Six Nations history.
Meanwhile, cries of Allez Allez rung around the French capital as Dulin’s try not only denied Wales the Grand Slam but guaranteed the bonus-point victory and ensured that the competition would go down to the last game.
As mentioned, France must now beat Scotland by 21 or more points as well as securing another four-try bonus point. Fabien Galthié, who may have been forgiven for thinking it would another nearly year for Les Blues, needs his Antoine Dupont at his scintillating best again as well as the try scoring exploits of Teddy Thomas, Damien Penaud, Charles Ollivon and last-week’s hero, Brice Dulin.
Scotland have not won away in France for over 30 years. But is home advantage the same without fans do drive the team onwards? 80,000 people in the Stade de France would certainly provide France with the psychological edge for such a big game, but they will be without their sixteenth man for this one.
Many believe this is the best Scotland team in a generation. In the two games Scotland have lost in this year’s tournament, the cumulative margin has been just four points. This demonstrates the magnitude of the task that faces France. Enigmatic flyhalf Finn Russell won’t hand bragging rights to his Racing 92 teammates without a fight.
Scotland are a very tough and physical side with strong defensive resolve. In Stuart Hogg and Russell, they have two players capable of creating tries from nothing, backed up by the physicality of Jamie Ritchie and Lions-elect Hamish Watson in the forwards. Gregor Townsend’s side know that a bonus-point win takes them to second in the table, which would be a well-earned reward for the progress they have made.