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France thrash Scotland in Nice
Gregor Townsend’s side could not contain Les Bleus.
Scotland’s World Cup preparations got off to a nightmare start as they were crushed 32-3 by France in Nice.
Playing the first of four warm-up clashes, Gregor Townsend’s team were hoping to build up some momentum before they depart for Japan next month with a first victory on French soil since 1999.
But the Dark Blues simply could not contain the power and intensity of Jacques Brunel’s Les Bleus, who ran in five tries as Maxime Medard’s double was complimented by scores from debutant Alivereti Raka, Gregor Alldritt and Antoine Dupont.
Temperatures of 25 degrees and a questionable pitch at the Allianz Riviera did not help the Scots’ cause but Townsend will be concerned by how sluggish his team looked with less than a month to go before they depart for the Far East.
Jamie Bhatti in particular will be fearing for his seat on the plane after being hooked at half-time.
Townsend then dropped a hint he may be prepared to take just five props with him when they jet out on September 9 after switching tighthead Simon Berghan to loosehead for the second half.
Duncan Taylor was back for his first appearance in a Scotland shirt after two years of injury hell while John Barclay was also making his return after an 18-month international lay-off caused by a ruptured Achilles.
The French were refreshed themselves after a disappointing Six Nations campaign but Scotland played into the hosts’ hands with a string of mistakes.
It took just 20 seconds for Townsend’s team to get themselves in a mess as captain Stuart McInally’s line-out throw sailed long. France gobbled up the ball before applying the squeeze, with Wesley Fofana’s fancy footwork opening the door for Raka to score under the posts.
Bhatti was then blamed by referee Nigel Owens for a collapsed scrum and Camille Lopez punished his error as he slotted over the penalty.
Taylor showed no ill-effects of the serious knee injury which had most recently kept him out as sped back to sweep up the danger after Raka had sent Medard galloping with a boot to the corner.
But there was no-one to stop the full-back scoring in the 23rd minute as Scotland failed to react when Dupont’s grubber broke loose. Gael Fickou recovered the ball as Les Bleus leapt into action, exploiting a four-on-one out wide as Medard crashed over.
Adam Hastings did at least put Scotland on the board as he slotted over a 40-yard penalty.
But when the Glasgow stand-off was sin-binned eight minutes before the break, the odds of a Scotland recovery only got worse. France capitalised immediately on their extra man as they fired the ball to the corner, with Alldritt ramming through after the Scots’ maul defence crumbled.
Matt Fagerson’s over-eagerness to crunch Lopez then set France loose again in the 55th minute as he failed to make contact. Alldritt scampered past three challenges before Dupont set up Medard to run in number four.
And six minutes later it was followed by France’s fifth touchdown. Hastings failed to find touch with a clearing kick and France’s counter slashed their guests wide open. Damian Penaud cut his way through midfield before handing over to Dupont to score.
Scotland will have to make drastic improvements if they are to avoid another painful lesson when the French make the return trip to Murrayfield next Saturday.