French flair set to prevail over Scottish grit
Six Nations outright favourites France arrive in Scotland with expectations high as the odds of 4/11 about the French suggest but the Scots will be quietly confident of causing an upset and odds of 23/10 say they can do just that.
The French have shown over the last year or so that they could be world beaters. Defeating New Zealand on their own turf before dismantling World Champions South Africa, however while coach Marc Lievremont has the ability to garner brilliance from his talented side, he has not shaken off the French inconsistency tag as a heavy loss to the All Blacks in France demonstrated.
Scottish rugby at the moment seems to be going through something of a revival with Glasgow and Edinburgh doing well in the domestic competitions and some young talent emerging to go with the grit that Andy Robinson seems to have instilled in the team, and they have made Murrayfield a very tough place to go, (just ask Australia).
Scotland receive a start of just six points at 10/11 which is surely just down to the fact they are at home rather than are just six points worse than France and it is fair to say that the only way the home side will win this is by stifling with the game, frustrating the French in to mistakes and by kicking very well indeed as if they try to take France on in a running game, they will simply not be able to match up.
Benjamin Fall, Clement Poitrenaud and Aurelien Rougerie (all 11/1 to score the first try) make a hugely exciting back three as all love running with the ball and can split back lines at any moment while Mathieu Bastareaud (14/1) and Yannick Jauzion (14/1) in the centres are a frightening pairing of brute force.
Even in the pack the French seem to have little weakness, roughing up South Africa's forwards when they played and in Immanol Harinordiquy, Flugence Oudraogo and Thierry Dusautoir they have one of the most powerful, exciting back rows in the world.
The Evans brothers, Thom (14/1 to go over first) and Max (16/1) will be looked to for creative inspiration and looks the most likely source of tries for the Scots while Sean Lamont (14/1) provides experience support on the wing and Chris Paterson (20/1) is still one of the most reliable boots in the game and in the forwards, Nathan Hines continues to work tirelessly to organise the pack.
As is said so often, winning your opening game is crucial for momentum and sets the whole tone for your tournament so it doesn't need to be said that if France are to justify the outright favourites tag, losing here is simply not an option and if they get going a big score if possible with winning margins of 11-15 points and 16-20 at 5/1 and 15/2 respectively, but Scotland could make this a grind and it is no surprise to see 6-10 points favourite at 9/2.
A Scottish winning margin of 1-5 is 6/1 with 6-10 at 8/1 and on paper it is impossible to envisage the home side taking this but we all know about France's infuriating inconsistency but they have so much flair, speed and pace in the backs and so much power in the forwards, Scotland will hold firm for a while before mistakes are punished and although they could give the French a fright, a six point deficit looks easily doable for France and is the call at 10/11.
France -6 points - 10/11