Townsend admits Scotland have ‘a lot of work to do’ after French mauling
Ireland’s World Cup Pool A opponents on the end of five-try hammering in Nice
France wing Alivereti Raka dives across the line to score a try during the Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Scotland at the Allianz Riviera stadium, in Nice. Photograph: Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images
Gregor Townsend admits Scotland have work to do to get their World Cup preparations back on track after being dismantled by France in Nice on Saturday night.
The head coach saw his concede five tries in their opening warm-up clash ahead of next month’s finals in Japan, where they open with a game against Ireland on September 22nd in Yokohama.
Scotland simply could not contain the power and intensity of Jacques Brunel’s side, who ran in five tries as Maxime Medard’s double was complimented by scores from debutant Alivereti Raka, Gregor Alldritt and Antoine Dupont.
“There’s a lot of work to do. We expected a better performance,” admitted Townsend.
“We go into every game we play, no matter the opponent, with the aim of winning and we believed as players and coaches that we were well-prepared for that game.
“Obviously that wasn’t correct. We missed parts of that first half just from not being in place quick enough to stop France getting quick ball and then not capitalising on opportunities we did have.
“France were very good, they seemed like they were in really good condition.
“We know our players are in very good physical condition but obviously tonight the match conditioning fell short but we will be better for the experience.
“But we have to be much, much better in terms of performance over the next three games and then when we get to Japan.”
Townsend names his 31-man squad on September 3rd and he believes the result at the Allianz Riviera will be a wake-up call for those players hoping to make the cut.
Townsend – whose side face a return clash with Les Bleus in Edinburgh next Saturday – added: “The team is going to change a lot going into next week’s game so some players won’t get the opportunity to rectify it next week.
“But this is a timely reminder for those playing their first game of the season just how tough international rugby can be if you’re not switched on and don’t make your tackles, as happened a few times tonight.
“We will be demanding a reaction from the players. They will be demanding it too. The target this week will be to show a much truer image of ourselves.”
Temperatures of 25 degrees and a questionable pitch did not help the Scots’ cause but Townsend will be concerned by how sluggish his team looked with five weeks to go to their opening Pool A encounter.
Loosehead prop Jamie Bhatti in particular will be fearing for his seat on the plane after being hooked at half-time.
Townsend then dropped a hint he may be prepared to take just five props with him when they jet out on September 9th after switching tighthead Simon Berghan to loosehead for the second half.
Duncan Taylor was back for his first appearance in a Scotland shirt after two years of injury hell while John Barclay was also making his return after an 18-month international lay-off caused by a ruptured Achilles.
The French were refreshed themselves after a disappointing Six Nations campaign but Scotland played into the hosts’ hands with a string of mistakes.
It took just 20 seconds for Townsend’s team to get themselves in a mess as captain Stuart McInally’s lineout throw sailed long. France gobbled up the ball before applying the squeeze, with Wesley Fofana’s fancy footwork opening the door for Raka to score under the posts.
Taylor showed no ill-effects of the serious knee injury which had most recently kept him out as sped back to sweep up the danger after Raka had sent Medard galloping with a boot to the corner.
But there was no-one to stop the fullback scoring in the 23rd minute as Scotland failed to react when Dupont’s grubber broke loose. Gael Fickou recovered the ball as Les Bleus leapt into action, exploiting a four-on-one out wide as Medard crashed over.
Adam Hastings did at least put Scotland on the board as he slotted over a 40-yard penalty.
But when the Glasgow standoff was sin-binned eight minutes before the break, the odds of a Scotland recovery only got worse. France capitalised immediately on their extra man as they fired the ball to the corner, with Alldritt ramming through after the Scots’ maul defence crumbled.
Matt Fagerson’s over-eagerness to crunch Lopez then set France loose again in the 55th minute as he failed to make contact. Alldritt scampered past three challenges before Dupont set up Medard to run in number four.
And six minutes later it was followed by France’s fifth touchdown. Hastings failed to find touch with a clearing kick and France’s counter slashed their guests wide open. Damian Penaud cut his way through midfield before handing over to Dupont to score.
Scotland will have to make drastic improvements if they are to avoid another painful lesson when the French make the return trip to Murrayfield next Saturday.
FRANCE: Medard; Penaud, Fickou, Fofana, Raka; Lopez, Dupont; Poirot, Chat, Slimani; Gabrillagues, Vahaamahina; Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt.
Replacements: Ramos for Penaud (65), Ntamack for Fofana (67), Serin for Dupont (65), Mauvaka for Chat (56), Setiano for Slimani (56), Lambey for Gabrillagues (72), Picamoles for Alldritt (62). Not used: Priso.
SCOTLAND: Hogg; Graham, Jones, Taylor, McGuigan; Hastings, Price; Bhatti, McInally, Berghan; Toolis, Gilchrist; Barclay, Ritchie, Strauss.
Replacements: Kinghorn for Hogg (56), Hutchinson for Taylor (48), G. Horne for Price (56), Z. Fagerson for Bhatti (41), Turner for McInally (67), Reid for Berghan (52), Cummings for Toolis (56), M Fagerson for Barclay (52). Sin bin: Hastings (33).