After losing their winning run 2 weeks ago against Ireland, France looked to bounce back at home to Scotland, who for the first time in Six Nations history were still chasing a Grand Slam come round 3. But it was Les Bleus (ironically playing in all white while Scotland wore their traditional blue) who started better and scored the first try within 5 minutes as a concerted assault on the Scottish line drew the defence in narrow enough for Romain Ntamack to beat them to the edge and go over for the try himself despite men free outside of him. And things got immediately worse for the Scots as Grant Gilchrist was sent off for a high hit on Anthony Jelonch at the restart, leaving Scotland 75 minutes to play a man down. And the hosts immediately took advantage of the extra space, Ntamack sending Ethan Dumortier over in the corner just a minute after the game restarted. A Scottish penalty at the next restart gave them a chance to go to the corner, and with Jonny Gray coming on for Hamish Watson to add extra ballast and lineout options, the Scots found their maul stopped just short, only for Mohamed Haouas, into the squad in place of the banned Uini Atonio, to needlessly dive in and catch Ben White in the head, earning himself a red card—making it 2 red cards in his last 2 appearances against Scotland. An obstruction at the lineout allowed France, who had to sacrifice Grégory Alldritt in order to bring on replacement prop Sipili Falatea to escape without further punishment, but a 50-22 from Racing’s Finn Russell soon had the Scots back in the 22, only for Zander Fagerson to lose control of the ball as he reached for the line. Scotland kept the pressure on, but were undone as Thomas Ramos intercepted Russell’s flat wide pass and ran in untouched from 60 metres to score under the posts, giving himself the simplest of conversions. But Russell quickly looked to make amends with a break into the 22, and when Scotland quickly recycled, the Scottish forwards worked the ball out to Duhan van der Merwe, who was just forced into touch by Anthony Jelonch and Ntamack as he stretched for the line. A penalty advantage allowed them to continue their siege on the France try line, and Russell eventually found Huw Jones on the perfect angle to go over next to the posts, while Jelonch was forced to call it a day after a physical 25 minutes that had seen him pass a HIA and both give and receive a series of big hits. Scotland were dominating the possession and territory since the game became 14v14, with Russell’s kicking to the corner keeping the pressure on France and allowing the visitors to counter their clearance kicks, and yet it was France who added to their tally 5 minutes before the break via a Ramos penalty. Scotland had one last chance to attack the French deep in their half, but Russell’s looped pass to send Hogg free down the wing was judged to have gone forward, leaving them going into the break down 22-7.

  Having missed so many chances in the first half, Scotland desperately needed to score first in the second half, and after a huge carry out wide from Huw Jones brought the visitors up tho the line, Scotland tied in the defence with a couple of forward carries before hitting back to the blind side and sending Jones over for his second try of the game. But France soon hit back with some strong carries to seemingly put Dumortier over in the corner, only for Ben White and Huw Jones to stop the ball getting to ground. Another Ramos penalty extended France’s lead back to double figures and triggered the arrival of Jack Dempsey and Ali Price as Scotland continued to largely dominate the possession and territory while lacking the killer final pass. But with 13 minutes remaining, a strong carry from Sione Tuipulotu on first phase after a scrum put the Scots on the front foot and a quick recycle allowed Russell to run through a gap in the disorganised defence, before converting his own try to cut the French lead to 4 points. France turned to Mathieu Jabibert for the final 10 minutes, and when Jamie Ritchie saw his side marched back 10 metres for dissent after he was pinged for holding on in his 22, France took the quick tap penalty to send Gaël Fickou over for the bonus point try, with Ramos’ conversion making it a 32-21 victory for the hosts.


Has Mohamed Haouas just brought an end to his international career?

The Clermont-bound Montpellier tighthead only came into the 23 this week due to Uini Atonio’s ban for a high tackle on Rob Herring 2 weeks ago, but his return lasted a grand total of 12 minutes before a needless dive off his feet that at best was going to gift Scotland a penalty for playing the 9, but instead resulted in him clashing heads with Ben White, leaving officials no choice but to send him off.

Having been sent off for punching Jamie Ritchie in his last appearance against Scotland, and having recently received an 1-month suspended sentence for his part in a series of robberies in 2014, with another court appearance due in May after being charged with “wilful violence” for another incident, there were already questions over whether he had the right temperance for test rugby or if he was too hot-headed. It seems that this latest moment of idiocy has answered that question. Now coaches must ask themselves if this makes him too much of a risk.

Judging by recent selections, Uini Atonio and Sipili Falatea are the clear preferred pairing, while today’s selection would suggest that Fabien Galthié prefers to utilise Falatea’s dynamism by bringing him off the bench against a tiring defence. So with the World Cup fast approaching, what other options does Galthié have? Well Demba Bamba looked to be the rising star of the French front row, only for a series of injuries to limit his playing time recently. But if he can get the minutes under his belt for the rest of the season, he will surely come back into contention, while Toulouse’s Dorian Aldegheri, whose last cap came against England in 2021, could also be in contention for a recall.

And then what about after the World Cup? Well it’s safe to assume that France will likely repeat their actions in this cycle by starting an immediate rebuild by looking only at players who they think could be part of their plans for the 2027 Rugby World Cup. We know that Atonio will have aged out by then and it is hard to imagine Haouas (who will be 33 in that tournament) will make the squad when Falatea and Bamba would be arguably entering their prime at 29 and 28 respectively, as we would probably see a younger third option.

Would you select Haouas again if you were Galthié? I certainly think that this is one selection headache I would rather avoid, causing me to look at other options.


This will be a hard loss to take for Scotland. Grant Gilchrist’s moment of complete stupidity not just allowed France to build a commanding lead before their own red card, but also cost Scotland one of their most devastating forward carriers and jackals as they were forced to sacrifice Hamish Watson to bring on another lineout option.

And yet despite that awful first 10 minutes, it’s hard to argue that Scotland shouldn’t be leaving Paris still hunting for the Grand Slam. Though barely in the game during the first 10 minutes, the Sots ended up dominating the possession and spending so much time in and around the French 22. And yet they failed to convert this to scores, leaving them without even a bonus point.

Scotland wasted so many opportunities. Getting pinged for obstruction at the 5m lineout immediately after Haouas’ red card was a big let-off for France given the recent success of the Scottish maul. Zander Fagerson’s knock-on in the corner was a classic case of a prop getting white line fever and hunting the glory, when simply recycling the ball would have likely seen the team score within a couple of phases. Russell’s wide double-miss pass that was intercepted by Ramos was unnecessary and costly. and there were a number of other occasions where it felt like Scotland were trying to force the opportunity rather than going through the phases and letting the opportunity develop, as he French did.

Of course, if any defence can hold out with 14 men, it’s one organised by Shaun Edwards. But if scotland want to start regularly beating the top teams in the world, then they need to find a way to be more clinical.

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