France look for final flourish against Scots
March 15, 2013
Mathieu Bastareaud return to the France line-up looking to replicate his two-try showing on his previous appearance against the Scots © PA Photos
France will be hoping to add some much-needed gloss to their Six Nations campaign when they play host to Scotland at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday night.
Head to Head
Philippe Saint-Andre's side entered this year's championship as title favourites but have fallen some way short of those aspirations with three straight defeats followed by a draw against Ireland last time out. As a result they find themselves at the bottom of the table and on course for their first wooden spoon since 1999 and a first win-less campaign since 1969.
Scotland have already exceeded many people's expectations with victories over Italy and Ireland putting them in contention for the title until they fell to Wales last weekend. But they will still be determined to finish on a high with a first win in Paris since 1999 - when they claimed the title - and ensure three championship victories for the first time since 2006 - but they have not won away from home in the Six Nations since 2010.
The result is also set to go a long way to deciding the fate of both coaches with France boss Philippe Saint-Andre facing increasing criticism while his Scotland counterpart Scott Johnson is closing in on a permanent position having taken the reins on an interim basis at the start of the year.
France - Player to Watch: Centre Mathieu Bastareaud grabbed two tries on his only other appearance against Scotland - can he conjure a return to that kind of form on his return to the starting line-up?
France - Team News: Flanker Antoine Claassen and lock Sebastien Vahaamahina will make their first Test starts. Claassen comes in for Yannick Nyanga who drops to the bench while Vahaamahina gets the nod ahead of Christophe Samson who is also named among the replacements. Coach Philippe Saint-Andre has also opted to restore Bastareaud to his midfield with Florian Fritz making way due to a foot infection although he is bracketed on the bench alongside Gael Fickou. Frederic Michalak retains the faith of his coach and the No.10 shirt despite attracting criticism for his showing in the 13-all draw with Ireland last weekend and will once again partner Morgan Parra at half-back.
Scotland - Player to Watch: With the match-up between Sam Warburton and Chris Robshaw in Cardiff tipped as a battle for the Lions' No.7 shirt, expect Kelly Brown to do all he can to attract the attention of Lions coach Warren Gatland.
Scotland - Team News: Scotland make two changes with Grant Gilchrist handed his Test debut with rival lock Richie Gray facing six to eight weeks out with a leg injury suffered against Wales. Alasdair Strokosch, who was injured in their tournament opener against England, re-takes his spot in the back-row in place of Rob Harley.
Key Battle: France's Louis Picamoles has been one of the outstanding players in this year's Six Nations but Scotland's Johnnie Beattie has made a significant impression himself with their personal duel set to be a highlight of Saturday night's clash.
Trivia: France have now gone seven matches without victory in the Six Nations. The last time Les Bleus managed seven games without a win in the Championship was between 1924 and 1927, when they lost 14 games in a row.
Stats: France are the only team in this year's Six Nations campaign that have not received a yellow card in a match. It will be the third consecutive year that France are the only Six Nations side not receive a yellow card during a Six Nations campaign
Betting: Scotland's Tom Visser has been largely out-shone by his fleet-footed team-mates Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland and needs a try or two to bolster his Lions chances - Bet365 have him prices at 11/1 for the opening five-pointer. Or how about rising start Gael Fickou coming off the bench and scoring the final try on debut? Bet365 have the 18-year-old priced at 11/1 also.
"I cannot imagine that those who celebrated him in November will boo."
"I don't want to start chasing rainbows by telling them to cheat. I won't do it."
Prediction: Scotland's barren run in Paris is set to continue with home comforts likely to inspire a turnaround in fortunes for France who will claim a much-needed win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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