Morning Chronicle - Grand Slam-chasing France confront Scotland hoodoo

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Grand Slam-chasing France confront Scotland hoodoo
Grand Slam-chasing France confront Scotland hoodoo

Grand Slam-chasing France confront Scotland hoodoo

Unbeaten France head to Murrayfield with an underdog mentality and a point to prove against bogey-side Scotland on Saturday as they continue their bid for a Six Nations Championship clean sweep.

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Fabien Galthie's in-form team are two-fifths of the way towards a first title and Grand Slam since 2010, after home wins against Italy (37-10) and Ireland (30-24).

Nevertheless, they are wary of a Scotland side who have beaten them in their last two Six Nations encounters -- and who will be seeking their first hat-trick of victories against France in the Championship for 64 years.

"We're going there with an underdog mentality and with a point to prove," said France's English-born defence coach Shaun Edwards, who has played a key role in moulding Les Bleus into a potentially world-beating force, 18 months out from a home World Cup.

"Scotland are the only side we haven't beaten in the Six Nations since Fabien and I took over. They've got the better of us on the last two occasions," he added.

Overcoming an outstanding Ireland side in Paris two weeks ago showed that France have maintained the momentum of their stunning 40-25 success against New Zealand at the Stade de France in November.

They arrive in Edinburgh as the only unbeaten nation left in the 2022 Six Nations and on a run of five straight victories in all competitions.

Scotland followed their stirring 20-17 home win against England with an abject performance in a 20-17 defeat by Wales in Cardiff.

Gregor Townsend's side, however, dashed France's Grand Slam hopes at Murrayfield in 2020, winning 28-17 after French prop Mohamed Haouas was sent off for punching Jamie Ritchie, and ended Les Bleus' 2021 title challenge with a dramatic 27-23 win in Paris, wing Duhan van der Merwe clinching victory with an 85th-minute try.

France did win an Autumn Nations Cup fixture 22-15 against a weakened Scotland team at an empty Murrayfield in November 2020 and they have yet to lose three successive Championship matches in a row to the Scots in the Six Nations era.

- 'Problems' -

Their last hat-trick of defeats to the Dark Blues dates back to the era of the Five Nations, in 1958.

"Scotland are a team that pose problems for us and we are aware of the level we will need to be at this time," said Galthie, who has kept changes to a minimum.

Jonathan Danty returns after an ankle injury to partner Gael Fickou in the centres, with Yoram Moefana moving out to the left wing to fill the place of Gabin Villiere, who has a fractured sinus.

Scotland coach Townsend, who played in France for Brive, Castres and Montpellier, has made three changes of personnel and a positional switch, all in the pack.

Glasgow's Rory Darge, capped coming off the bench against Wales, makes his first start at openside flanker in place of the injured Jamie Ritchie.

Magnus Bradbury comes in at No 8 and Zander Fagerson at tighthead prop. Sam Skinner moves from the back row to replace the injured Jonny Gray at lock.

Townsend described France as "one of the top two or three teams in the world" and urged his team to improve on a below-par showing in Wales.

"We've got to be better," the former Scotland fly-half said. "We know that the rugby we play, and aim to play, puts a lot of teams under pressure."