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The third match of the opening of the 2015 Six Nations Championship sees Scotland playing away against France in Paris on February 7. The Scots have not won in France for 16-years.
Both teams will welcome12 uncapped players to seasoned squads. In the autumn tests, France lost to Argentina, which were beaten by Scotland during a southern hemisphere tour earlier in the year.
The past three meetings have witnessed narrow French victories:
2014 – France 19 – Scotland 17
2013 – France 23 – Scotland 16
2012 – France 23 -- Scotland 17
The sub text to this contest remains the significant difference in professional league play within the two countries. The French boast a Super 14 league with fourteen teams playing within France to good size crowds and high television ratings. This compares with the two only Scottish pro teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow, that cannot boast similar attendance. More importantly, while French pro teams are always in the hunt for the Heineken Cup (Rugby’s European Super Bowl equivalent), the two Scottish sides have never made a final.
Of all the Home Countries, the Scots have suffered the most from the conversion to professional players. In the decades leading up to the 1980s, Scotland remained competitive, finding players from national colleges and clubs, Cambridge and Oxford, and using London Scottish as a feeder club into the national side. This year’s twelve-team Aviva English league has teams from London Welsh and London Irish but no London Scottish representative.
Scotland were 1-5 last year, beating only Italy. They will have to find the right mix of top players and reserves to compete in this year’s Six Nations, and also, later this year, in the Rugby World Cup.
Ironically, the Scots won the last Five Nations Cup in 1999.