Match Preview


Scotland celebrate v Wales
France will be looking to get back to winning ways on Saturday afternoon when they visit Scottish Gas Murrayfield in the second round of the 2024 Guinness Men's Six Nations.

After experiencing a chastening 38-17 defeat at the hands of Ireland last time out, Fabien Galthié has made two changes to his starting side and will be looking to make it a hat-trick of Championship victories against their hosts.

Scotland’s last victory on home soil against the French came in the summer as both teams prepared for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with Scotland narrowing winning that game 25-21 before tasting a 30-27 defeat one weekend later at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

Scotland made history in their opening encounter, ending a 22-year wait for a victory in Cardiff, although they were made to sweat against Wales.

After opening up a 27-0 lead, Scotland saw their hosts fight back with 26 unanswered points, hanging on for a one-point victory.

It is the fourth year running in which they have won their opening fixture and they will now look to match their achievements of last year, when they followed up a win on the road with a second at home to boost their chances of a first Championship success since 1999.

Team news

For the visit of France to Scottish Gas Murrayfield, Scotland are able to welcome back co-captain Rory Darge to the fold. 

Missing the opener through injury, the 23-year-old comes into the back row, where he replaces Luke Crosbie, who was ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations Championship through injury and Jack Dempsey is handed the keys to No.8. That means that Matt Fagerson shifts across to blindside flanker with Jamie Ritchie dropping out of the 23.

With Richie Gray also ruled out of the Championship with injury, Grant Gilchrist is back in the second row where he will play alongside Scott Cummings. It is an unchanged front row, with Pierre Schoeman, George Turner and Zander Fagerson looking for similar success to last weekend in Cardiff.

It is an unchanged backline too for Scotland, where co-captain Finn Russell will pull the strings next to half-back partner Ben White. Fresh from a two-try outing, Duhan van der Merwe takes his place on the wing, where Kyle Steyn and Kyle Rowe also line up in the back three.

On the bench, Andy Christie is rewarded for his Saracens form with a place as back-row cover.

Following their defeat to Ireland a weekend ago Fabien Galthié has made two changes to his starting side. One of those changes is enforced, the red card to lock forward Paul Willemse seeing Cameron Woki take a starting berth in the engine room with Paul Gabrillagues.

The other change comes in the backs, where Louis Bielle-Biarrey gets the start on the left wing. As part of this alteration Yoram Moefana moves to the replacements, where Sébastien Taofifenua is added as replacement loosehead prop and Alexandre Roumat could make his debut as back-row cover.

La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt continues as captain at No.8 following a trademark performance from the colossal forward, while Bordeaux teammates Matthieu Jalibert and Maxime Lucu remain as the half-back partnership.

What they said

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “It’s great for Rory (Darge) that he is now available for us and to co-captain the side with Finn (Russell). It’s a real shame with the injury news we got with Richie Gray and Luke Crosbie, who both have been playing very well and did really well down in Cardiff, they are out, but we can also bring quality into the squad through Grant Gilchrist who has captained the side before and Jack Dempsey who has been very good for us the past couple of seasons.”

France head coach Fabien Galthié: "The players have to feel our trust, and we feel their trust. The idea we had as a coaching staff and leaders' group was to keep the same backbone to the team. It's been our project since we've been in charge to have solidarity within the squad and the team in good and bad times.”

Key battle

While plenty of focus will be on Finn Russell and Matthieu Jalibert at Scottish Gas Murrayfield, it is out wide where the match-up could ultimately be decided. In recent years France’s Damian Penaud and Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe have been two of the most lethal wings in world rugby.

Already this season Penaud has crossed the whitewash on 21 occasions for both club and country, while Van der Merwe got his Guinness Men’s Six Nations Championship off to a flyer with a brace of tries in Cardiff.

Each are heavily relied upon commodities by their nations, both regularly providing the finishing touch for their side and there is added intrigue this weekend as the two players line up opposite one another in the Scottish capital.

With the pair due to see plenty of each other on Saturday, there could well be fireworks as Scotland play their first fixture at home this year.

Stat attack

  • Damian Penaud is set to win his 50th cap for France, he has scored 15 tries in his 21 appearances in the Guinness Men’s Six  Nations since his debut in 2019, the most of any player in that period, with Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe having scored the joint second most tries since 2019 (11, level with Josh Adams)

  • Scotland’s Finn Russell was the only player to assist more than one try in Round 1 of this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (2), surpassing Dan Biggar as the player with the 2nd most try assists in the history of the Championship (Russell 19, Biggar 18) 

  • France committed 2+ opposition tacklers from a greater share of their carries than any other team in the opening round of this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (57%), while only Italy (22%) had a higher tackle evasion rate than Les Bleus last time out (21%)

  • Scotland made the most kicks in play of any side in the opening round of this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (38), while France made the fewest (20) – only England retained possession from a greater share of their open play kicks (16%) than Scotland (11%) or France (10%) last time out 

  • France have won nine of their last 11 Guinness Men’s Six Nations matches (L2), with their only defeats in that period both coming against Ireland

Fantasy watch

Pierre Schoeman’s outing at Principality Stadium saw the prop forward pick up 28 fantasy points a weekend ago. Available for 13.5 stars, the in-form 29-year-old Edinburgh forward could be essential to anyone’s cause.

On an otherwise disappointing day for France in Marseille, Fabien Galthié’s No.8 of choice, Grégory Alldritt, continued to prove his worth to his team. Making 16 tackles and making 57 metres in contact, it was a vintage performance for a player that is workmanlike in how he applies himself.

Perhaps the best value selection could come in the form of Matthieu Jalibert. Priced 5.4 stars less than Finn Russell, the Bordeaux man is at the centre of everything France do, the reward of a positive outing for France potentially seeing people leap up their league ladder.

Scotland: 15. Kyle Rowe, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Sione Tuipulotu, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ben White; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Grant Gilchrist, 5. Scott Cummings, 6. Matt Fagerson, 7. Rory Darge, 8. Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: 16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Alec Hepburn, 18. Elliot Millar Mills, 19. Sam Skinner, 20. Andy Christie, 21. George Horne, 22. Ben Healy, 23. Cameron Redpath

France: 15. Thomas Ramos, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Gael Fickou, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11. Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10. Matthieu Jalibert, 9. Maxime Lucu; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Peato Mauvaka, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Cameron Woki, 5. Paul Gabrillagues, 6. Francois Cros, 7. Charles Ollivon, 8. Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: 16. Julien Marchand, 17. Sebastien Taofifenua, 18. Dorian Aldegheri, 19. Posolo Tuilagi, 20. Alexandre Roumat, 21. Paul Boudehent, 22. Nolann Le Garrec, 23. Yoram Moefana.