France: Despite ending up on the wrong end of a 19–16 scoreline in Round One, there were shades of vintage, classic Les Bleus last weekend. It was one of the best French performances in living memory, combining a gargantuan, monstrous pack with talented, exciting backs, and they may have too much at home for a dogged, resolute Scottish outfit.
Scotland: Vern Cotter’s men haven’t won in Paris since 1999, and if they are to end their barren 18-year run, they’ll take encouragement from their famous 27-22 win over Ireland at Murrayfield. It was Scotland’s first opening day Six Nations victory in 11 years, and they should head to the Stade de France with the belief they can cause yet another upset following their famous exploits eight days earlier.
Built around a beefy, weighty pack including 6ft 5in, 24-stone prop Uini Atonio and Northampton Saints’ Louis Picamoles, Guy Noves’ side may simply have too much raw power and brute strength up front for Scotland to deal with. The pack fronted up against England, producing one of the most inspired displays of the Noves era. The bookmakers agree Les Bleus go into Sunday’s encounter as favourites – they’re 11/2 to win by 11-15 points.
Man of the match against England, Picamoles shone with effective ball-carries and brute physicality in defence. Mightily impressive in both the loose and at close quarters, the Number 8 made hard yards carrying the ball intently with great effect, abrasive and physical in all facets of the game. He’s a tempting 12/1 to be first try scorer on Sunday.
Despite Scotland’s heroic efforts against Ireland, winning despite being on the back foot for long spells, there are concerns surrounding their scrum. Without first choice props Alasdair Dickinson and WP Nel, young replacements Allan Dell and Zander Ferguson struggled to cope at times with their Irish counterparts, conceding scrum penalties early on at Murrayfield. France are 9/2 to score the first try, and this could very well come through their forwards. They will have identified this as a potential weakness of Scotland’s game, and will look to target the opposing front-row.
Scotland won last season’s Six Nations fixture 29-18 at Murrayfield thanks to tries from Duncan Taylor, Tim Visser and Stuart Hogg. Hogg, two-try man of the match against Ireland, produced a scintillating performance from full back last weekend. A safe pair of hands under the high ball, brave as the last line of defence, electric with ball in hand and confident kicking in open play, he could very well continue his try-scoring exploits this weekend and is 18/1 to open the scoring this weekend.
In front of Hogg, Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell and Huw Jones all impressed in the Scottish backline, and the pack will look to feed their backs with quick ball so they can strike out wide, staying away from a potential arm wrestle with the French forwards. Scotland were the underdogs against Ireland, and look what happened there; they have the personnel to potentially cause another upset and secure their first win in Paris for 18 years.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Scotland to win by 1-12 points – 11/4
Please not, odds may fluctuate in the run up to the game.