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How former Scotland captain Laidlaw thinks France can be beaten

By Stefan Frost
David Rogers/Getty Images

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Greig Laidlaw thinks Scotland need to control possession and manufacture quick ball if they are to secure a hattrick of wins against France in the Six Nations.

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Speaking on Le French Rugby Podcast, the former Scotland captain acknowledged the big task awaiting Gregor Townsend and his men, but he believes it is not insurmountable.

France are the only team still on for a Grand Slam and have a finely tuned fifteen which balances attacking flair with brute force up front.

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Le French Rugby Podcast – Greig Laidlaw | Episode 22
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Le French Rugby Podcast – Greig Laidlaw | Episode 22

To stifle these two elements, Laidlaw explained that Scotland cannot get sucked into a physical battle in the midfield and instead must focus on retaining possession and spreading the ball wide.

“Scotland are going to have to play quick and stay away from the blitz,” Laidlaw said. ““They need to move the ball as much as they can away from the big, heavy French pack. That’s essentially the template.

“Don’t let France settle, don’t let them get their rhythm and don’t give them lineouts to launch off. Scotland need to hold the ball in attack. Make Antoine Dupont defend, make him tackle and don’t let him get his hands on the ball. It’s easier said than done,” Laidlaw said with a wry smile.

“But if Scotland can do that, they’re in with a chance.

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“Scotland are clearly going to respect France but they have won against France the last two times they’ve played, and for a reason.”

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Scotland would not be the first team to try and take the ball out of French hands, but they will have to execute with grit and accuracy if they are to skirt around the imposing opposition pack.

Just two weeks ago, Ireland managed to create quick ball against Fabien Galthié’s men and won considerable yardage from this in the second half.
“Ireland were able to hit a pod of three forwards off the side-line and tug it to the ten and get some bodies into space,” Laidlaw recounted. “That’s how you get the ball away from those heavy forwards – you make them move.

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“You can then get a couple of big ball carriers in those less cluttered areas. That’s where Hamish [Watson] and Duhan [van der Merwe] become really dangerous.”

These tactical adjustments are well within the Scottish repository but one thing out of their hands, which Laidlaw thinks could have a huge bearing on the match, is the weather.

“Heavy rain would probably suit France a little bit more and I know that might sound funny because France can obviously play as well, but Scotland get outmuscled over 80 minutes if its heavy rain.”

French hearts may rise if the skies turn grey over Murrayfield but Finn Russell will have to remain poised regardless of the weather, especially coming off a disappointing loss in Cardiff where the flyhalf saw yellow.

Russell will also have extra incentive this Saturday as he faces off against his Racing 92 teammates. Laidlaw believes, from personal experience, a win against his French clubmen could taste particularly sweet.

“In 2018 we managed to beat France at Murrayfield when I was playing with Clermont,” the scrumhalf said. “When you head back over to France you can walk in [the changing room] and push your chest out. The way Finn is, he’ll be putting himself out there to get the win this weekend. And it would be awesome to be a fly on the wall in the changing room back in Racing with the banter he’ll be giving the boys if he’s able to do it.”

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