Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live coverage of this weekend’s first Six Nations match, between Scotland and France at Murrayfield.
Will this be the day when France finally banish their blues in the Scottish capital? 2014 was the last time that Les Bleus conquered the thistle at Murrayfield in a Six Nations match. On that day, the likes of Thomas Domingo, Nicolas Mas and Jim Hamilton were among the names on the starting teamsheets.
It felt as if the hoodoo would finally be broken two years ago, in 2020, the tournament when France’s Nouvelle Vague, under new head coach Fabien Galthie, sprung into life. But a moment of madness from French tighthead Mohamed Haouas – not in today’s squad, thankfully – when he decided to sock Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie square in the chops in front of 67,000 rabid Scots, cost France that day. It also, ultimately, cost them the tournament. A win today would take them one step further to exorcising those 2020 demons – and towards a first championship win since 2010.
Fabien Galthie’s side did, of course, edge a close game on Scottish soil in the (appalling) Autumn Nations Cup in 2020, but in northern hemisphere’s showpiece, there has been an eight-year barren period.
Scotland come into this fixture on the back of a seismic win against France in Paris last year, too. And, if ever a single game defined all that is good in a player, it was Chris Harris’ performance in that 2021 match at the Stade de France. With Scotland hanging on by their fingertips after losing captain Stuart Hogg to the sin-bin and playmaker Finn Russell to the early bath, the outside centre’s contribution was not only immense, it was potentially match-winning, as Richard Bath writes.
As well as leading the tackle stats amongst Scotland’s backs, two perfect reads in situations when France had men over and seemed certain to score before Harris stepped in to take man and ball – one on French captain Gregor Alldritt, the other on Virimi Vakatawa – allowed Scotland to stay in the hunt and snatch a late win. It was arguably also the performance which catapulted the Cumbrian into the British and Irish Lions touring party to South Africa.
“With France, they do play a lot and have some real attacking threats,” he said, “so the defensive side of my game comes into it there. It’s a challenge but one I look forward to, so there’s probably an element of that.”
“It’s about being aware of their threats and if that’s the offload we’ve got to be alive to it,” he said. “Ultimately, we’ve got to make sure we’re dominant with our collisions to negate that offload threat.”