Robinson tells Scots to expect backlash from hurting French
Scotland coach Andy Robinson, and the rest of us for that matter, will be watching France more closely than usual as Les Bleus sprint out of the tunnel at the Stade de France this evening and line up for the anthems.
More than any Test in recent history, this one depends on which France turn up. Less than three months ago Marc Lievremont's team were jeered off the same pitch by those fans who could be bothered to linger for the finale of the most humiliating 40 minutes imaginable as France, leading shortly after half-time against Australia, ran up the white flag and lost by a staggering 59-16.
It was viewed as a national disgrace. A million words, most of them unrepeatable, have been uttered about that mystifying capitulation and a line can only be drawn if they respond now with a thumping, and preferably stylish, victory over Scotland.
Anything less and Lievremont, given a stay of execution at crisis meetings with the federation in December, will quickly be joining the ranks of the unemployed.
"We are assuming that the real France turn up, a side packed with proven world-class performers capable of beating any team in the world," Robinson said.
"Looking at that Australia game it is difficult to offer a proper explanation other than sometimes games can just spiral out of control and run away from you.
"Good teams, with quality players, tend to bounce back at the very next opportunity, like we did against South Africa after we lost heavily to New Zealand in November. And France are a good team; they didn't win the Grand Slam by accident last year."
Scotland under Robinson's guidance are in as good a shape as they have been in a decade or more. Five wins in their past six matches, including hard-fought "road" victories against Argentina and Ireland, and a home win over South Africa.
Scotland have it in them to win in Paris but it is unlikely to be pretty -- the selection of Leinster lock Nathan Hines at blind-side flanker tells you what sort of match they expect and how they intend to go about their work.
Lievremont has selected conservatively up front, relying on tried and tested warriors to restore national pride with a hugely physical performance, and Damien Traille's selection at full-back suggests a kicking game.
Scrum-half Morgan Parra summed the situation up: "Sure we feel ravaged, even if time has passed. That match will remain engraved in our heads. The worry is that in wanting to quickly get the crowd on our side by playing free-flowing rugby and trying all sorts of things we will be hit on the counter-attack." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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