Six Nations preview: Scotland aim for first win in France since 1999
Les Bleus in disarray but still ‘very dangerous’, warns Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend
France vs. Scotland
- What: 2019 Six Nations round three
- When: Saturday 23 February
- Where: Stade de France, Paris
- Start time: 2.15pm (GMT)
- TV channel: live on BBC One
Scotland have yet to win in Paris this century but they will never have a better chance of scoring a Six Nations victory in the French capital than on Saturday.
The French are in disarray after suffering back-to-back defeats against Wales and England, with reports of unrest among the players over the coaching methods of Jacques Brunel.
Under his reign, France have lost ten of their 13 Test matches.
Brunel has stoked further controversy by dropping the experienced half-back pair of Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez in favour of Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont for Saturday’s match.
The 22-year-old Dupont makes his first Six Nations start at scrum-half, while 19-year-old Ntamack wears the No. 10 shirt for the first time. There is also a debut start for full-back Thomas Romas.
Asked if Parra and Lopez had been dropped on account of their criticism of Brunel’s methods, the France head coach replied: “I’m telling you it’s not the case - ask them, ask their teammates.”
Scotland also have a new face at fly-half, after Finn Russell was ruled out with concussion. Peter Horne is his cover, while the three other enforced changes are Blair Kinghorn at full-back, Nick Grigg at centre and Magnus Bradbury on the blind-side flank.
“Injuries create opportunities for others to show what they can do, and throughout the past couple of seasons, we’ve seen a number of players really step up,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who was a member of the side that last beat France in Paris, in the 1999 Five Nations.
Despite France’s recent troubles, Townsend described Les Bleus as “very dangerous”, adding: “Their individual talent is outstanding and, when they get things right - which has predominantly been in the Six Nations at home - they’ve played with a real collective spirit and fed off the emotion of the crowd.
“They will certainly be fired up following their loss at Twickenham.”
- Starting XV: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont; 1 Jefferson Poirot, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 3 Demba Bamba, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5 Felix Lambey, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Arthur Iturria, 8 Louis Picamoles
- Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Maxime Medard
- Starting XV: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Nick Grigg, 12. Sam Johnson, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Pete Horne, 9. Greig Laidlaw (captain); 1. Allan Dell, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Simon Berghan, 4. Grant Gilchrist, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Josh Strauss
- Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Alex Allan, 18. Zander Fagerson, 19. Ben Toolis, 20. Gary Graham, 21. Ali Price, 22. Adam Hastings, 23. Darcy Graham
Italy vs. Ireland
- When: Sunday 24 February
- Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
- Start time: 3pm (GMT)
- TV channel: live on ITV
- Teams: to be announced on Friday at 1pm
Although defending champions Ireland are no longer in contention for a Six Nations grand slam, they can keep their title hopes alive if they win against Italy in Rome on Sunday.
That looks more than possible, with the Italians without a Six Nations win for four years and 19 successive matches.
Italy’s hopes of pulling off a shock win fell further when it was announced that Ireland star Jonathan Sexton was fit to play.
The fly-half left the field with a head injury during the win over Scotland but has subsequently recovered and is named in the starting XV.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has made four changes to the Ireland pack. Captain Rory Best is rested and Sean Cronin plays at hooker.
Dave Kilcoyne starts at loose-head prop, Ultan Dillane is at lock and Jordi Murphy is selected in the back row. Peter O’Mahony skippers the Irish.
O’Shea makes changes
Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has made five changes to his side to face Ireland in Rome. Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi returns from injury and he partners Tommaso Allan in the half-backs.
In the pack Maxime Mbandà and Jimmy Tuivaiti replace Sergio Parisse (concussion) and Sebastian Negri (illness) respectively.
Federico Ruzza is named at lock while Andrea Lovotti will start at loosehead prop. Leonardo Ghiraldini will captain the Italians.
- Starting XV: 15. Jayden Hayward, 14. Edoardo Padovani, 13. Michele Campagnaro, 12. Luca Morisi, 11. Angelo Esposito, 10. Tommaso Allan, 9. Tito Tebaldi; 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3. Simone Ferrari, 4. Federico Ruzza, 5. Dean Budd, 6. Jimmy Tuivaiti, 7. Maxime Mbandà, 8. Braam Steyn
- Replacements: 16. Luca Bigi, 17. Cherif Traoré, 18. Tiziano Pasquali, 19. David Sisi, 20. Alessandro Zanni, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Ian McKinley, 23. Tommaso Castello
- Starting XV: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Keith Earls, 13. Chris Farrell, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. Jacob Stockdale, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Sean Cronin, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Ultan Dillane, 5. Quinn Roux, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain), 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Jordi Murphy
- Replacements: 16. Niall Scannell, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. John Ryan, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Josh van der Flier, 21. John Cooney, 22. Jack Carty, 23. Andrew Conway
2019 Six Nations round three fixtures
Saturday 23 February
- France vs. Scotland (2.15pm, live on BBC One)
- Wales vs. England (4.45pm, live on BBC One and S4C)
Sunday 24 February
- Italy vs. Ireland (3pm, live on ITV)