France are unchanged as Scots look to give Hogg starting spot


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The Independent Online

There was no faulting the logic of Philippe Saint-André yesterday as he named an unchanged XV for France's Six Nations encounter with Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday. "Nobody played a bad game," the head coach of Les Bleus said. Quite. But then nobody played at all when the former Sale and Gloucester director of rugby sent his players out on to the frozen wasteland of the Stade de France 11 days ago.

"We decided to keep the same team, even though we must coach them differently," Saint-André said of the XV who never got to face the Irish in Paris and who will be seeking to pick up the momentum of France's 30-12 win against Italy on the opening day of the championship. Scotland might have started the Six Nations with two defeats – at home to England and away to Wales – and be on a run of four losses in all competition but Saint-André is expecting a stern examination from Andy Robinson's men. "It will be a big test for us," he said.

"Scotland are a team who know how to string together phases. We know that they will run the ball a lot. Strategy-wise, and physically it will be very demanding. Substitutions will be very important.

"During the Stade Français versus Toulon game last weekend, the ball was effectively in play for 26 minutes. It was in play for 46 minutes during Scotland v Wales."

Having failed to capitalise on a string of changes in their 13-6 defeat England, Scotland paid the price for a disastrous third quarter against Wales, losing 27-13. Robinson names his team today and is likely to give a starting berth to Stuart Hogg, the 19-year-old Glasgow full-back who injected attacking dynamism off the bench in Cardiff.

"We created a lot of chances against Wales but we weren't clinical enough," Ross Ford, Scotland's hooker and captain, said yesterday."We will keep the faith in how we're trying to play and that we will take the opportunities and finish them off.

"We have talked about it in the last couple of weeks. It's just about being composed. We have created chances, it's all about having belief and being clinical.

"We've been recreating that in training and repeating them until it becomes second nature. It's something we have got to be better at. The French are very clinical. We have got to make sure that when they have the ball we are very aggressive."