VERN COTTER has made two changes to the Scotland team which defeated Italy in its last outing ahead of taking on France at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon. Glasgow Warriors duo Josh Strauss and Alex Dunbar have replaced club mates Ryan Wilson and Mark Bennett.
“Ryan Wilson finished the [Italy] game with a badly sprained ankle and was in a boot for a week. Josh was fully fit and able to prepare over the last two weeks. He provides a different profile, probably more of a carrier with more presence and power in the game,” explained Cotter.
“We’d like to start well against the French. If we can keep the ball from them and stop them accessing the game the way they like to they will be good. Ryan brings a lot of energy and that will be important in the last 20 minutes of the game.”
“It was always going to be tough when we are getting players of Alex Dunbar’s quality coming back in [after injury],” the head coach continued.
“He has played well, but Duncan Taylor has played well for us. We offer another profile, something [France] haven’t seen up to now, and we hope that the change may cause them a few headaches preparing for the game.”
“Alex has not played [for Scotland] for a year and he is very keen. He will be bringing the qualities he has and that will change the way we look a bit and the way they play.”
“He is professional in his preparation and the way he has got himself right. He has had a couple of setbacks but this is a good opportunity for him. He is looking sharp on the training pitch.”
“We spoke to [Mark Bennett] during the week. He hasn’t had a lot of time off since coming back and he would probably like to be able to recover and then move into giving better performances. This weekend will be a good opportunity to sit back, take stock and move forward again. He is still a very good player.”
“The win in Rome was a reward for the hard work the players have put in to the championship so far, but the hard work never stops. We must be relentless.”
Turning his attention from selection to the challenge which lies ahead, Cotter stressed that the warm glow from the victory has not diminished the resolve within the squad to continue improving.
“It is not in the character of the team to get ahead of themselves. They realise that this is going to be a tough encounter. There are things we have put in place and got results but we are by no means the finished article. In training this week I have felt we still have more to give. We need to become more accurate and that will be the focus before we take the paddock,” he said.
“But it is a great challenge and it’s good to be able to be in a situation where you have worked for a win and are in a position to go for another.”
“We’re expecting the French to be physical. They have a culture of trying to dominate their opposition. They are confrontational and will try to keep the ball alive, so we will have to put in a great defensive performance. “They also have the ability to channel their power through their set-piece, though that is a challenge our pack in particular are relishing, having put in some impressive performances of their own so far. “We’re looking forward to varying our game, holding the ball and striving to score at every opportunity. “Work-rate and concentration will be key, and a sustained effort for 80 minutes will be very important.” The Scotland team is otherwise unchanged, meaning Greig Laidlaw in in line to make a half-century of international appearances and simultaneously equal David Sole’s record of captaining the side on 25 occasions.
Scotland team to play France at BT Murrayfield Stadium Sunday 13 March (kick-off 3pm) – live on BBC.
15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 41 caps; 9 tries, 2 pens, 51 points
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps; 13 tries, 65 points
13. Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 15 caps; 1 try, 5 points
12. Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 14 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
11. Tim Visser (Harlequins) – 24 caps; 10 tries, 50 points
10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps; 2 tries, 3 cons, 1 pen, 19 points
9. Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester) – 49 caps; 4 tries, 61 cons, 115 pens, 487 points
1. Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 55 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
2. Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 97 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 11 caps; 1 try, 5 points
4. Richie Gray (Castres) – 54 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps; 1 try, 5 points
6. John Barclay (Scarlets) – 48 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
7. John Hardie (Edinburgh Rugby) – 8 caps; 3 tries, 15 points
8. Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps
16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps
17. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
18. Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs) – 30 caps
19. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
20. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps
21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby) – 9 caps
22. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps; 2 tries, 1 con, 1 pen, 15 points
23. Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) – 103 caps; 14 caps, 70 points