France vs Scotland LIVE rugby: Latest build-up, teams and updates from crucial Six Nations clash

French forwards provide sternest test of impressive Scotland front eight

While Russell and his backs have added the flash, Scotland’s first two wins have been built on the grit and gristle of their defensive efforts, with the forward pack fronting up and playing with improved physicality. This, though, will be a significant step-up for the Scottish front eight – France come armed with an array of heavy artillery the envy of the rest of the rugby world, and combatting their power shapes as a key challenge for the visitors.

When France are at their best they win repeatedly around the corner, attacking the fringes with their bruisers and offloading to then capitalise on the fissures. In theory, that’s a worry for a Scottish side lacking the pure mass of their opponents, so they may have to be canny to stall the hosts – Hamish Watson’s return should be helpful at the breakdown. Survive the physical test, though, and Scotland really will look like true challengers.

Can Finn Russell unlock French defence?

Finn Russell has rather enjoyed his time in Paris, strutting his stuff at the La Defense Arena with Racing 92. He departs for Bath at season’s end, so this will be a last trip to his adopted home city as an international, looking to unpick a few familiar Top 14 friends and foes.

Key will be his Racing teammate Gael Fickou, France’s defensive captain and key pivot defender in the 13 channel. Scotland have exploited both England and Wales out wide, with Russell’s range of kicking and passing causing plenty of problems against two teams bedding in new systems.

France tend to spread wider more effectively than either of Scotland’s previous two opponents, so Russell may instead try to attack inside defenders – Yoram Moefana is not necessarily a natural inside centre, and I think we could see a fair bit of Duhan van der Merwe on his fly-half’s shoulder to try and punch up the centre.

Newly arrived to the Harris household

Now feels an opportune time to extend our congratulations to Scotland centre Chris Harris and his wife, Ruby, on the safe arrival of a baby daughter this week. It may be that Gregor Townsend was planning to match France’s power-packed bench anyway, but Harris’ absence perhaps made the decision slightly more straightforward for the head coach. Best wishes to the Harris family, who will be hoping baby Isobel’s first Scotland game ends in victory.

Team News – Scotland

Also making a single tweak is Gregor Townsend, understandably content with Scotland’s work so far in this championship and with Stuart Hogg passed fit finding no fresh injury issues of concern. In to the starting side comes a fully fit Hamish Watson, the breakdown nuisance displacing the slightly unfortunate Luke Crosbie, who did little wrong in his first two Six Nations appearances.

Crosbie drops all the way out of the 23 despite Townsend matching France with an extra forward on the bench: Sam Skinner is handy blindside and lock cover and is set for his first involvement of this campaign. Ali Price also returns to the fold as replacement scrum-half.

Scotland XV: Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie (capt.), Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson; Ben White, Finn Russell; Duhan van der Merwe, Sione Tuipulotu, Huw Jones, Kyle Steyn; Stuart Hogg.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, WP Nel, Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner, Jack Dempsey; Ali Price, Blair Kinghorn.

Team News – France

A first defeat in 18 months has not prompted sweeping changes from Fabien Galthie, with the head coach happy enough to let the same 23 continue. There is a single exception: Uini Atonio’s high hit on Rob Herring has earned the tighthead a ban, necessitating a new starter at prop. That starter is Mohamed Haouas, promoted beyond Sipili Falatea.

His elevation to starter reflects how Galthie likes clarity of roles for his squad, with a six-two bench split again backed. Two back rowers lurk among the six forwards, with Francois Cros and Sekou Macalou ready to stretch their legs in the second half.

France XV: Cyrill Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas; Thibaud Flament, Paul Willemse; Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt; Antoine Dupont (capt.), Romain Ntamack; Ethan Dumortier, Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud; Thomas Ramos.

Replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Romain Taofifenua, Francois Cros, Sekou Macalou; Baptiste Couilloud, Matthieu Jalibert.

On to France vs Scotland

There’s plenty more reaction to yesterday’s games across The Independent, but now it is time to switch our attention more squarely to affairs in Paris, starting with a closer examination of both selections.

Where that leaves things in Six Nations round three…

Ireland remain on course for a perfect tournament, three games, three bonus point wins and clear at the top of the table – for now.

Scotland can match the presumed favourites if they score four tries or more and snatch victory this afternoon, while a French bonus point win could leave a three-way tie for second spot.

For Wales – well, when Warren Gatland is talking about avoiding a wooden spoon it rather sums up the sorry state his side find themselves in. Italy host the Welsh in 13 days time…

England ensure Wales end week of woe with defeat in scrappy Six Nations clash

Perhaps usefully for the editors of Rugby Special, there was rather less end-to-end stuff in Cardiff yesterday evening as Wales and England contested a scrappy old contest at a slightly subdued Principality Stadium. The visitors deepened the Welsh woe with their biggest win by the River Taff in 20 years despite an off-day from the tee for Owen Farrell.

England ensure Wales end week of woe with defeat in scrappy Six Nations clash

Wales 10-20 England: England edged to a rare Cardiff win as Anthony Watson, Ollie Lawrence and Kyle Sinckler scored tries

Ireland survive Italy test to keep grand slam chase alive

Trips to Rome no longer look at all straightforward – Kieran Crowley’s frisky Italy side have now run France and Ireland, perhaps the two best teams in the world, mighty close over the first three weeks of this Six Nations. It was all action and adventure in the Italian capital, with Andy Farrell’s side eventually emerging (just about) on top.

France vs Scotland

Yes, welcome along one and all to the conclusion of the middle weekend of the Six Nations. We are now beyond the halfway point of this competition, eight matches concluded with seven more to go to decide our 2023 champions.

Colliding this afternoon are France, stung by a first defeat in 14 before the fallow week, and Scotland, hopeful of heady heights after back-to-back wins to open their tournament but knowing the challenge ratchets up this afternoon.

Kick off is at 3pm GMT – and before we get in to the thick of the build-up, let’s remind you of all of yesterday’s action…

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