Both France and Scotland will be looking for a welcome victory in today's Six Nations match at the Stade de France, after France lost to Ireland and Scotland was defeated by Grand Slam holders Wales last weekend.
AFP - France and Scotland go into their Six Nations clash here at the Stade de France on Saturday both seeking a welcome victory after bruising opening round defeats.
The French certainly played their part in a high quality and exciting 30-21 defeat to Ireland while the Scots went down 26-13 to Grand Slam holders Wales.
However, both will be expecting a better result this time round with particular pressure on France coach Marc Lievremont, who has at least to guide the French to a better placing than last year's third this time round.
The former France international back row forward was downcast after the Irish defeat but he could have taken comfort from phases of play that suggested the French were rediscovering their flair-filled rugby which had gone missing last year.
"We needed to mend certain things this week in terms of discipline and also finishing off our scoring opportunities," commented Lievremont.
"They are clearly things that did not come together against Ireland and I am now looking to this match (against Scotland) to see an improvement on both fronts."
Lievremont had opted for just four changes to the starting XV but he had to bring in Benoit Baby after Florian Fritz was suspended for gouging - disrupting to a certain extent his selection of five Toulouse backs, though, Baby should fit in as he used to play for them as well.
However, it is more his continuing faith in captain and lock Lionel Nallet that has upset the pundits as Lievremont dropped cult hero Sebastien Chabal from the second row instead of him after they were both outclassed by their Irish counterparts.
"At no moment did I even consider the idea of taking the captaincy away from Nallet," said Lievremont.
"It's not always the case that the captain is the outstanding player in any game, although he should not be the worst.
"That was far from being the case on Saturday (against the Irish) and I was happy with the way he played."
While Lievremont steered away from saying that defeat would be a disaster, veteran No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy was more blunt.
"We have spent an intense week, we have spoken with each other a lot," said the 28-year-old 52-times capped Biarritz player.
"We posed a lot of questions but at the end of the day what has been sorted out will only come out on Saturday.
"In any case I do not want to even countenance another defeat. We are not in the French team to lose matches."
Scotland coach Frank Hadden has had to cope with a long line of injuries after the Welsh defeat but at least that has forced his arm in selecting both the Evans brothers, who many had clamoured to be selected in the starting XV against Wales.
The Evanses will become the 20th set of brothers to play together for Scotland, with Thom on the wing and Max - at outside centre - making his first Six Nations start.
Hadden, though, was at pains to insist that the team would put up a better performance than they did against Wales, although, he had not been helped with losing two of his few world class scrummagers Nathan Hines and Euan Murray to injury prior to the match.
"We know the supporters demand and deserve better than the performance against Wales and they are determined to do that against France," said the former school teacher.
Date created : 2009-02-14