Sport Rugby

Sunday 25 February 2018

France must sink Scotland to save Le Piglet's bacon

Alasdair Reid

Something is lost in translation when the wooden spoon becomes la cuillere de bois.

In France, they will tell you that rugby's most despised prize can only be taken by a side who lose all their games; merely finishing bottom of the table is not enough. It is a convenient argument, too, as France have not suffered a total whitewash in the championship since 1957.

However, the semantics will count for nothing among French fans if they find themselves reflecting on a tournament from which their side's meagre return is the solitary point collected in the draw with Ireland in Dublin last weekend.

While some suggest that coach Philippe Saint-Andre's position is safe regardless of what happens in their concluding match against Scotland this evening, the knives will unquestionably be out.

Can 'Le Piglet' save his bacon? Saint-Andre has endured some horrible bad luck in recent games, but he has engineered some of his own misfortune as well, not least with some wayward selection policies and replacement strategies.

Yet the underlying quality of the squad is beyond all doubt, and captain Thierry Dusautoir believes that their second-half comeback against the Irish may have been a turning point.

"This team needed to reassure itself on that level," said Dusautoir, world player of the year in 2011. "The second half brought us confirmation of that.

"There are few teams who have succeeded in coming back against a dominant Irish side in the second half of a game and to have done so shows this team has the capacity to produce great performances.

"But it has been a bad Six Nations. Whether we finish fifth or sixth doesn't interest anybody. It has been bad and, at least that way, things are clear. But finishing on a high note will do everyone the world of good."

In this instance, of course, everyone does not include Scotland interim forwards coach Dean Ryan.

Bizarrely, though, Ryan would rather put out his team against a French side with tails in the air rather than between legs.

"A winning French side has the potential to be a little complacent," Ryan said. "But a side that is staring at a wooden spoon could go absolutely nuts.

"We are under no illusion about what might hit us. I would have preferred to see them in the first game when they were still thinking they were quite good." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

France – Y Huget; V Clerc, M Bastareaud, W Fofana, M Medard; F Michalak, M Parra; T Domingo, B Kayser, N Mas, S Vahaamahina, Y Maestri, A Claassen, T Dusautoir (capt), L Picamoles. Reps: G Guirado, V Debaty, L Ducalon, C Samson, Y Nyanga, M Machenaud, F Trinh-Duc, F Fritz or G Fickou.

Scotland – S Hogg; S Maitland, S Lamont, M Scott, T Visser; D Weir, G Laidlaw; R Grant, R Ford, E Murray, G Gilchrist, J Hamilton, A Strokosch, K Brown (capt), J Beattie. Reps: D Hall, M Low, G Cross, A Kellock, R Wilson, H Pyrgos, R Jackson, M Evans.

Ref – N Owens (Wales)

France v Scotland,

Live, RTE 2/BBC 2, 8.0

Irish Independent

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