Head coach Gregor Townsend believes his men will rise to one of the biggest challenges in world rugby when France travel to BT Murrayfield for the Guinness Six Nations.
Les Blues have been climbing the world rankings under Fabien Galthié and are three points ahead in the Championship while they are also the only side still able to claim the Grand Slam after wins over Ireland and Italy.
Scotland have enjoyed a similar resurgence under Townsend, retaining the Calcutta Cup for the first time since 1984 in the opening round, but they fell to fourth after they were narrowly beaten 20-17 in Cardiff despite leading for much of the game.
In the 2021 Championship, Duhan van der Merwe’s last-gasp try broke a 22-year hoodoo as Scotland emerged 27-23 victors in Paris, and Townsend’s men may need more heroics as they look to return to winning ways in front of the BT Murrayfield crowd.
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Townsend said: “It’s one of the biggest challenges you get in rugby when you’re playing arguably the best team in the world on form.
“They’re full of confidence, they have had some big wins and every player is available to them, but it’s one of those challenges we believe our squad will rise up to meet.
“We’ve seen it before, we know from our disappointing result against Wales that we have to play better but we’ve seen that reaction in training and we know we’ll get that reaction at the weekend.”
Townsend has decided to shuffle his pack, handing No.8 Magnus Bradbury his first start since 2020 as well as Glasgow Warriors’ Rory Darge following his impressive debut against Wales, while Nick Haining is a late replacement for Hamish Watson who tested positive for Covid-19.
Townsend said: “I’m really impressed with how Rory has conducted himself in our group, how well he’s integrated into the team and the level of his training but really it’s his performances for Glasgow that have got him into this squad.
“He’s had a very good season and we all thought he looked dangerous when he came off the bench against Wales.
“Magnus worked very hard in Cardiff, he came on relatively and carried well. I thought he put in a big shift physically and defensively.
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“That’s what we need from our whole team this week and especially our forwards. Not just physicality but also a huge effort against the French.”
Centre Mark Bennett will be hoping to make his first international appearance since 2018 as he returns to the Scottish bench, coming back into form for Edinburgh this season after a plague of injuries.
Townsend said: “We’re delighted he’s back in the international arena. He’s played well for his club and looked very good in training so we’re looking forward to him having a similar impact like he did on those last occasions he played for Scotland.”