Townsend says France Test requires best of the Scots

·3-min read
Gregor Townsend says his Scotland side will need to be close to their best throughout the Autumn Nations Cup clash with France having beaten 14 man French side in March when Mohammed Haouas was sent off

Townsend says France Test requires best of the Scots

Gregor Townsend says his Scotland side will need to be close to their best throughout the Autumn Nations Cup clash with France having beaten 14 man French side in March when Mohammed Haouas was sent off

Gregor Townsend says Scotland will need to be "close to their best" if they are to beat France on Sunday and become only the third Scottish side to win six successive Tests.

The Scots already number Fabien Galthie's much-improved French side among the five teams they have beaten -- having been the only side to defeat France in the Six Nations.

The French did not enhance their cause that day at Murrayfield in March with prop Mohamed Haouas being sent off before half-time.

"France are full of confidence and have played really well this year," said Townsend after naming the starting XV for the Autumn Nations Cup clash.

"We know we're playing one of the best teams in the world right now, so to rise to this challenge we're going to have to play close to our best throughout the contest on Sunday."

Townsend came under pressure following the disappointing group stage exit at the World Cup last year and then a falling out with fly-half Finn Russell.

However, all is sweeter now with the victories over France, Italy (twice) Georgia and Wales, plus he and Russell have made up.

The 47-year-old former Scotland playmaker disputes Haouas's red card was the decisive moment in their Six Nations clash saying his side already had the French under pressure.

He says Sunday's game feels as if it has the same intensity about it especially as the winner could well progress to the play-off to decide the champion.

Fiji's inability to fulfil their fixtures due to an outbreak of COVID leaves Six Nations wooden spoon holders Italy as the other opponents.

France play the Italians in the final round of pool fixtures.

- 'Best team in the world' -

"We are getting the opportunity to play France who have been the best team in the world in terms of results since the World Cup," said Townsend.

"So you want to see where you are when you take on the best teams because the wins are even more special.

"It feels like a proper Six Nations game even though it's the Autumn Nations Cup because France are playing so well and they've brought their best players."

Townsend has made five changes to the starting XV from the one that defeated Italy in their opening Autumn Nations Cup last weekend.

Blair Kinghorn is the only change to the starting back division as he replaces Edinburgh team-mate Darcy Graham.

Townsend has named a whole new front row from the one that faced the Italians with the experienced Fraser Brown returning as hooker having recovered from injury.

Props Oli Kebble and Simon Berghan also come in whilst the fifth and final change is Matt Fagerson returning at No8 having been out injured.

The bench is re-enforced with the recall of Saracens wing Sean Maitland, who scored a brace of tries in the win back in March.

His clubmate Duncan Taylor –- who last featured for Scotland against Russia in last year's World Cup -– joins him on the bench.

The first occasion when Scotland won six Tests in a row came in the 1925/26 season when they won their first Grand Slam.

They matched that in 1989/90 when David Sole's side claimed their third and most recent Grand Slam with a memorable win over England at Murrayfield.

Scotland they have never won more than six in a row but did go nine games undefeated between 1885 and 1887.

Team (15-1)

Stuart Hogg (capt); Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Duncan Weir, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie; Jonny Gray, Scott Cummings; Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Oli Kebble

Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Blade Thomson, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Taylor, Sean Maitland

Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)

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