France 'on alert' for Grand Slam complacency in Scotland

Edinburgh (AFP) –


France head coach Fabien Galthie says his side are "on alert" against complacency as they travel to Scotland on Sunday with an eye on setting up a Six Nations Grand Slam showdown with Ireland.

Galthie's les Bleus are unbeaten in their opening three games of the tournament but head to Murrayfield without a win in Edinburgh since 2014.

A victory in the Scottish capital would give Galthie's side a shot at a first Grand Slam since 2010 by hosting Ireland on March 14.

"We have to keep the standards we have been looking for on and off the field," Galthie said on Friday.

"It's what's at stake. We are on alert for this type of experience, we are on alert for this danger," he added.

The former scrum-half's team manager Raphael Ibanez also had a word of warning for their inexperienced side.

Only winger Gael Fickou has more than 50 Test appearances and lock Bernard Le Roux is the sole member of the squad older than 30.

"We're in a positive situation. Obviously there's perspective of great things to come but with that in mind nothing is written beforehand," Ibanez said.

"We will remain careful, humble and we will work."

- Russell's inside information -

Galthie's Scotland counterpart Gregor Townsend has enlisted the help of exiled fly-half Finn Russell, who plays his club rugby with Paris' Racing 92, as well as scrum coach Pieter de Villiers who made 69 appearances for France between 1999-2007.

Despite his input, Russell will not feature for his country this weekend due to a breakdown in his relationship with Townsend.

"We don't know the French as well as the other teams, we don't play them on a regular basis in the PRO14, and the French have brought a number of new players into their squad," Townsend said.

"Conversations with players who are playing in France, people who have worked under Fabien Galthie in the past, and also having a former French international (Pieter de Villiers) on our coaching staff has certainly helped.

"It was good to have that contact to help us with our preparation," he added.

Despite the absence of the influential Russell, Galthie said Townsend's men remain dangerous.

"When they get into the action zone, they are capable of creating choas by moving the ball wide, long passes, and the speed of their players," he said.

"Individuals like Hamish Watson, who is an excellent player, and Stuart Hogg too. Their organisation around the ball is capable of hurting pretty much any team in the world," he added.

The game takes place under the cloud of the coronavirus outbreak.

Italy's trip to Ireland this weekend has been postponed as has England's visit to Rome next Saturday.

Nine people have died in France from COVID-19 and Ibanez said it was now time for his side to focus on the game after doubts it would go ahead earlier in the week.

"Obviously we haven't been able to avoid the news. We took time to explain to the players what could happen. After the public authorities confirmed the game could go ahead we automatically switched onto the rugby," he said.

"With the next match in Paris, we are well informed, the authorities keep us informed. For now we are preparing to play these two matches," he added.