Scotland v France this Saturday in the Guinness Women's Six Nations has all the ingredients for a tricky encounter for Les Bleues.

The visitors arrive with a record of 23 wins out of 30 matches dating back over a quarter of a century. But over the years, Scotland have progressed and are now stronger than ever.

Could this 30th meeting between France and Scotland at Edinburgh's Hive Stadium reset the record books? For 25 years, France have unquestionably been the dominant side, winning 23 matches and losing just five - including four in the first eight meetings. The Scots' last victory came over a decade ago; a 10-8 victory at Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, in 2010.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, particularly in the last few years, which has completely reshaped the women's game in Scotland. Today, 23 of the 34 players involved in the Guinness Women's Six Nations are currently under contract with Scottish Rugby.

“We shouldn't forget either that this year's Six Nations is a qualifier for the WXV and Scotland are keen to qualify for Level 1," says France's co-head coach, former international hooker Gaëlle Mignot. "We're expecting an over-excited team at home, and it's their first home game. Scotland are going to show that they have what it takes to go to the WXV.”

Scotland rising

“This team is progressing,” says David Ortiz, Mignot's co-head coach. “Many of these players play in the English league.” From there, the results have followed and Scotland have embarked on a good run of games that they will battle to continue in round two against France.

Scotland's victory over Wales on the opening weekend - the first win on Welsh soil in 20 years - was their seventh in a row, bettering their previous six-match winning streak dating back to 1997-1998.

“It's a team that's a mirror image of the boys, with a culture of play and ball placement that poses a threat, particularly on the wings," remarks Ortiz. "We'll have to do a lot of hard work and defend the midfield very well. They're a team that's going to force us to play at a fast pace and make tough decisions. It's a team that also resembles our desire to play the game. It's going to be a tough match and we're going to have to come out on top, especially defensively."

Threats in the backs

“They have more or less the same type of game as the Irish, but individually it's a little higher,” says fullback Emilie Boulard, 25, who has already faced this team twice in her 27-cap career.

“We're going to be in danger when they start. They have wings who go 10,000 miles an hour and are very good players. They have good footwork and are very hard-hitting. They can be a real threat to the whole back line.

“It's going to be a real challenge for us to defend well. We did a lot of analysis of what they were doing and how they were playing and we tried to put things in place accordingly.”

This threat on the wings in particular was clearly identified, but the dangers France have identified aren't limited to the wide channels. “They handle the ball more and inevitably that pushes the players to make decisions in defence," says Ortiz. "We've been preparing for that all week. They're a very aggressive team from the start. We're going to have to cause problems for their attack and make them do things. That will be one of the keys to the match."

How to reign in the rain

Despite their extremely flattering record, France have prepared very seriously for their match against the winners of WXV2 - a match that could turn out to be a trap for them if they're not careful.

“We're in for a tough 20 minutes from the start. This team is not going to give us anything, they're not going to let up from start to finish,” anticipates Mignot. “We're expecting a big match, a big fight. The weather conditions are quite variable and we've prepared for every eventuality.”

To prepare for every eventuality, and avoid even the slightest unpleasant surprise, the French women's team has targeted two very specific details capable of turning a match on its head: the characteristics of the pitch and the weather.

“We know we'll be playing on an artificial turf. That changes certain things when it comes to a bouncing ball and scrums,” explains Mignot, who points to the staff's determination to “look for the smallest details” to win.

“We found the opportunity to train on an artificial turf in Marcoussis and in conditions you'd expect in Scotland. It enabled us to prepare well. It rained on Tuesday and we've experienced all the conditions during the week. We're ready for the weather.”

Solitary change

To meet the challenge ahead, France have gone with a virtually identical starting line-up to the one that beat Ireland in their opening game. The only exception is the inclusion of Axelle Berthoumieu (main picture) in the back row, leaving Charlotte Escudero on the bench.

Also on the bench is a familiar face: 33-year-old hooker Manon Bigot (5 caps), who hasn't seen Test action since facing the United States in November 2016. Big put her rugby career on hold to become a professional firefighter.

“What struck us was her style of play; let's call it 'earthy'. She's a player who loves the fighting phases, the set-piece phases. She excels in that area,” comments Ortiz. "She's an experienced player with an unusual background. We wanted to have her with us and see what she could bring us."

France have therefore spent the week oiling their weapons for the Scots. There is still one equation to take into account: Bryan Easson, Scotland's head coach. While he was not yet officially in charge of the team, Easson oversaw a 13-13 draw - the only one in history between the two teams - in the 2020 Championship.

A draw alone would be proof of the incredible progress his team has made in just a few years, but in today's Championship, everybody is playing to win.