Scotland coach Matt Williams must have sent his team into their RBS 6 Nations duel with France at Murrayfield this afternoon with an acute sense of foreboding.
Not only were his winless outfit facing a side who have yet to drop a point in this season’s competition, they were also trying to turn over a team who hammered them 51-9 in the World Cup only five months ago.
Even with the customary Scottish grit and determination, it appeared on paper at least to be a task well beyond them, especially as the French were fully focused on registering a big win to provide insurance for next weekend’s title decider with England.
At kick-off, France trailed Sir Clive Woodward’s world champions by a points difference of 17, so a victory margin in excess of that would force England not only to win in Paris but also by a certain target.
Both sides showed notable changes from their previous outings, full-back Derrick Lee among the new faces for Scotland following their disappointing defeat in Italy.
Veteran flanker Olivier Magne earned a recall for France while Dimitri Yachvili was named at scrum-half for France in the absence of injury victim Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.
Scotland: Lee, Danielli, Philip, Henderson, Webster, Paterson, Cusiter Jacobsen, Bulloch, Douglas, Murray, Grimes, White, Mather, Taylor. Replacements: Russell, Kerr, Hines, Hogg, Blair, Laney, Parks.
France: Brusque, Elhorga, Jauzion, Traille, Dominici, Michalak, Yachvili, Marconnet, Servat, De Villiers, Pelous, Pape, Betsen, Lievremont, Magne.
Replacements: Bru, Crenca, Auradou, Bonnaire, Peyrelongue, Rougerie, Clerc.
Referee: Scott Young (Australia)