Scots floored as French discover the F Word

Under his predecessor Bernard Laporte it was regarded as a dirty word, but Marc Lievremont’s desire to make flair once more synonymous with French rugby has paid an immediate dividend.

A side featuring four international debutants and just six members of Laporte’s World Cup squad had far too much class, imagination and pace for Scotland, whose own hopes of making an impression on this year’s Six Nations were thrown into sharp relief by a 27-6 hammering at Murrayfield on Sunday.

For the Scots, who travel to Wales for their second match this coming weekend, the grim reality was that it could have been worse.

For the French, things can only get better and their next opponents Ireland, unconvincing winners over Italy on home turf on Saturday, will be nervous tourists in Paris.

Lievremont, who took over as head coach following last year’s World Cup, was delighted by the quality of the performance from a group of players who had had only a few days to get to know each other.

“I’m delighted, it is as good, if not better, than we could have hoped for,” said the former international flanker.

“They played a lot of good rugby but they also displayed a lot of spirit and fight in the best sense of the word.

“It is hard to get things right after only a week together, but I sensed there was a fantastic spirit in the camp and that showed in the match.

“For us the most important thing was to give the players the confidence to try things and they did that from the beginning. We had a bit of luck, I admit, but fortune favours the brave.

“Our defence was superb. We imposed our tempo on Scotland, which is no mean feat, and there were hardly any turnovers against us.” Lievremont’s decision to turn to a new generation of new stars was largely vindicated, with 21-year-old flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc notably producing an assured, albeit unspectacular, display before being replaced on the hour mark.

With Murrayfield spared the high winds and snow that had been feared, conditions were almost perfect for Trinh-Duc to provide the French backline with opportunities to display their talents.

The experienced Vincent Clerc, who went over twice, and fellow wing Julien Malzieu, who marked his debut with a try, duly obliged.

The net result was some agonised soul-searching in the Scots’ camp.

“We have let our fans down,” said head coach Frank Hadden. “Once again, we’ve made the sort of elementary errors that bedevilled us at the critical stage during the World Cup.

“As soon as we got into their 22, we were like rabbits caught in the headlamps.

“That was extremely disappointing – but let’s not take anything away from the quality of France’s performance. They played with tremendous pace and I thought their defence was outstanding.

“We created a few chances but they shut the door very quickly. If we got past their front line they scrambled very well to keep us out.” Hadden now faces a difficult selection dilemma for Saturday’s trip to Wales after leaving world rugby’s most reliable goalkicker, Chris Paterson, on the bench until this game was effectively lost.

That decision meant Hadden was effectively gambling on the performance of flyhalf Dan Parks.

The Australian-born number ten’s failure to vincidate that judgement was conspicuous. After failing to convert one straightforward penalty when Scotland were still in the game, Parks then gifted Malzieux France’s second try with a sliced attempt at a clearance.

France’s opening score had come through a delightful piece of counter-attacking Clerc cutting in from the right wing and looping round the back of fullback Cedric Heymans before touching down to the right of the posts.

Clerc also applied the killer blow with a quarter of an hour left, threading a grubber kick down the right touchline before charging through to collect it, a couple of freakishly fortunate

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