PARIS – Six days after beating Wales in a frantic finale, France need another monster attacking performance against Scotland on Friday but must keep their cool to win a first Six Nations in 11 years.
Les Bleus, who denied Wales a second Grand Slam in three years last Saturday by beating them 32-30 after coming back from 10 points and a man down in the last 10 minutes, must prevail by 21 points with a bonus point to finish top of the table.
A 20-point bonus win will be enough to claim the title if they score six tries but if they win by 20 points and score five they will share the title with Wales.
The task at hand is reminiscent of that in 2007 when France had to beat Scotland by 24 points to finish ahead of Ireland and England on points difference. They won 46-19.
“The goal is to bring Scotland to a breaking point, to open a gap that is big enough so that they have nothing to hope for anymore,” former France coach Pierre Berbizier told Tuesday’s sports daily L’Equipe.
Les Bleus will be without flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert who has been ruled out following a concussion, but Romain Ntamack, scrumhalf Antoine Dupont’s usual partner, will start for the first time in the championship after returning from an injury layoff.
The pair have what it takes to dictate a high pace against Scotland, who beat them in the Six Nations last year, but France will need to play a possession game – a strategy they have so far only implemented in the finale of Saturday’s game and at times in their narrow defeat by England.
However, captain Charles Ollivon, centres Gael Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa and winger Damian Penaud played the whole test against Wales and whether Fabien Galthie’s side will be fresh enough is anyone’s guess.
France – like Scotland – are about to play their third game in 14 days after the match was rescheduled following a Covid-19 outbreak within the French squad.
The intensity of their last two outings – the late 23-20 loss to England and last-gasp win over Wales – could weigh on Les Bleus’ chances.
But if they manage to replicate their Stade de France finale – a perfect blend of intensity and composure – France are likely to celebrate winning their first title since Galthie took over last year and trigger wild expectations ahead of a November test against New Zealand and the 2023 World Cup on home soil.
To do that they must keep their cool and not panic should they fial to break the Scots from the outset.
“If you want to score tries right from the start and you don’t manage it, you risk getting frustrated,” said former winger Vincent Clerc, who recalled that France were only 20-14 up at halftime against Scotland in 2007.