Cotter expects France to pose Scotland monumental challenge
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scotland's buoyant rugby team must be wary of a "smarting" France on Sunday when it bids to win in Paris for the first time since 1999, coach Vern Cotter says.
The Scots beat Ireland last weekend for their first victory on the opening day of the Six Nations since 2006 but Cotter cautioned against over-optimism.
"France in Paris is a monumental challenge. They have improved markedly since (coach) Guy Noves took charge and will be smarting since their narrow defeat to England at Twickenham last weekend," Cotter said on Friday.
"We're their next opportunity to get their campaign up and running and they'll be intent on throwing every part of their considerable firepower at us."
Scotland has made one change to its starting team with ball-winning flanker John Barclay replacing Ryan Wilson, who misses out with an elbow infection. The experienced Barclay will help combat the considerable threat posed by France No. 8 Louis Picamoles, who made huge yardage in the 19-16 defeat against England.
Flyhalf Finn Russell has been passed fit to play having recovered from a head knock sustained in the 27-22 victory over Ireland, while hooker Fraser Brown starts despite going off in the same game with an eye injury.
Fullback Stuart Hogg, man of the match against Ireland, will make his 50th international appearance, at 24 becoming the youngest Scot to reach the milestone.
Cotter said Scotland must match French "ferocity."
"We'll have to match their ferocity while ensuring we take that - and all the other battles we can expect in this game - on our terms, whether that's in collisions, in set-piece, at the breakdown or in the air.
"This will be an excellent test for this group of players: Mentally, physically, tactically, and of our skillsets under pressure. We will need to be at our relentless best once again."
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Josh Strauss, Hamish Watson, John Barclay, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Zander Fagerson, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell. Reserves: Ross Ford, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, John Hardie, Ali Price, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett.