Nations Cup: France changes 8, Scotland has new front row

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Matthieu Jalibert replaced the injured Romain Ntamack at flyhalf among eight changes to the France side playing Scotland in the Autumn Nations Cup on Sunday at Murrayfield.

Like France, Scotland will field a new front row after beating Italy 28-17 last weekend.

With France fullback Anthony Bouthier also injured, Thomas Ramos steps in and has kicking duty.

“We've spoken with Matthieu, he wants to be a regular starter," coach Fabien Galthie said. “It's his time now and he knows what he needs to do.”

Teddy Thomas was on the right wing and Vincent Rattez has switched to the left, allowing Gael Fickou to return to the centers alongside Virimi Vakatawa.

The powerful and speedy Fickou was deployed on the wing in the 35-27 win over Ireland three weeks ago in the Six Nations, which helped France finish in second place.

Flanker Dylan Cretin was in for the injured François Cros, and lock Romain Taofifenua took the place of Paul Willemse.

The front row was also new: Jean-Baptiste Gros, Camille Chat and Demba Bamba have swapped in for Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand and Mohamed Haouas.

“We needed to change our team to have more movement and to freshen things up," Galthie said. "All of this helps us to grow, to make all of our players stronger. What's pleasing for us to see is that there are players emerging in our side. This gives us confidence in our desire to become a big nation in world rugby once again."

Galthie said he would have selected the same side against Fiji last Sunday, only for that game to be canceled because of coronavirus cases in the Fiji camp. France was awarded a 28-0 win.

Scotland handed France its only defeat of the Six Nations, winning 28-17 at Murrayfield on March 8 before the COVID-19 crisis shut down sports.

Scotland has gone on to five straight wins. Another on Sunday would equal its national record achieved only in 1925-26 and 1989-90.

But coach Gregor Townsend insists they are driven more by winning the tournament than making history.

The winner at Murrayfield will be favored to reach the final.

"The opportunity is about winning this game and what that would mean to this group in terms of getting into the final to play for first or second in a couple of weeks time,” Townsend said.

"We know what a challenge France are going to bring — one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the world right now, so that’s all we’re thinking about.”

Townsend has picked a new front row of Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan, and returned Matt Fagerson at No. 8 after he injured his ankle in the win over Georgia last month.

The only change in the backline was Blair Kinghorn on the right wing in place of Edinburgh clubmate Darcy Graham.

Saracens backs Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor -- who last appeared in the 2019 Rugby World Cup -- also join the reserves.



Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Duncan Weir, Ali Price; Matt Fagerson, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Jonny Gray, Scott Cummings, Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Oli Kebble. Reserves: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Blade Thomson, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Taylor, Sean Maitland.

France: Thomas Ramos, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain), Dylan Cretin, Romain Taofifenua, Bernard Le Roux, Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba. Reserves: Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille, Mohamed Haouas, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Couilloud, Louis Carbonel, Arthur Vincent.


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