Six Nations 2015: Scotland not daunted by France trip
Matt Taylor insists Scotland will not be daunted by a trip to Paris to take on France in their Six Nations opener.
A late penalty from Jean-Marc Doussain at BT Murrayfield last year gave Les Blues a narrow win over Scotland, but there is plenty for them to be happy with after a solid autumn campaign under new head coach Vern Cotter that yielded two wins and kept the All Blacks to just two tries in a narrow defeat.
We need to go there and put on an 80 minute performance for us to have a chance to win that game. We are not daunted by going over to France, we are looking at it as a great opportunity.
Scotland’s last win over France came in 2006, but their last win in France came in the last year of the Five Nations era, which Scotland won after a dramatic final weekend saw Wales defeat England 32-31 with a last-minute converted try at Wembley to hand Jim Telfer’s men the title.
Perennial unknowns France will turn up with their dynamic backline and big ball-carrying forwards, all with a point to prove after slumping to a fourth-place finish in last year’s championship despite being in title contention on the final day, and the Dark Blues’ defence coach knows his players have to put in a big shift.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go over and put on a good performance,” Taylor told Scottish Rugby TV.
“France is always a team that likes to play and so are we, so I think it’s going to be a great game.
“We need to go there and put on an 80-minute performance for us to have a chance to win that game.
“We are not daunted by going over to France, we are looking at it as a great opportunity.”
After a disappointing 3-0 series in defeat in Australia last summer, France bounced back in November to crush Fiji in Marseille before gaining revenge over the Wallabies with a 29-26 win in Paris, but later fell to Argentina 18-13 in their final match.
They are certainly trying to play a wider type of game and we will need to be shutting that down for us to have a chance of winning.
France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre integrated a number of new faces into international rugby, but none shone as much as 21-year-old wing Teddy Thomas, who grabbed a hat-trick on debut and followed that up with a fourth try in the win over Australia.
The Racing Metro man could be pivotal to France’s success this year and, paired with Yoann Huget, could be deadly in their expansive attacking game.
Taylor expects it to be a great game and believes Scotland will need to have the defensive nous to shut down the French flair to leave Paris victorious for the first time since 1999.
“With how we played in the autumn and how France played in the autumn, it’s going to be a great game,” he added.
“From what we can make out and with the stats, they are certainly playing a more expansive game than they have in the past.
“They have always got a strong scrum and they have a strong lineout drive, which we know about, but also they have got some really good backs: Teddy Thomas is a really good player; [Yoann] Huget on the wing is an exciting player; there’s [Mathieu] Bastareaud – they’re strong carriers.
“But they are certainly trying to play a wider type of game and we will need to be shutting that down for us to have a chance of winning.”
While much of the talk about Scotland’s rapid rise has been aimed at their own expansive backline, which is dominated by Glasgow Warriors stars, Scotland’s defence has not gained as much attention.
If Glasgow Warriors flanker Rob Harley recovers from injury, he and club team-mate Jonny Gray could be influential in halting the inevitable waves of French raids on the Scotland 22, with both regularly stand-out performers for club and country.
But Taylor maintains that the Dark Blues need to learn from the lessons of switching off early, as they did against Argentina’s threatening backline in their 41-31 win at BT Murrayfield in November.
“I think in the autumn we defended reasonably well,” he said.
“We kept Tonga try-less, which is a really good achievement for any international team.
“New Zealand had two tries and, for one of the best attacking teams in the world, that wasn’t too bad. We stopped them playing in many regards.
“Against Argentina, unfortunately we took our foot of the gas defensively and we had a few discipline problems right at the end which allowed them to gain a couple of tries, which was disappointing.
“But overall we did a reasonably good job defensively in the autumn.”