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France v Scotland preview: Much-changed Les Bleus likely to have too much

Scotland came from behind to beat a scratch France side last weekend, but could feel the full force of Les Bleus in the pair's return World Cup warm-up fixture on Saturday.

Fabien Galthie selected an experimental side for the game at Murrayfield, but Le Petit General has made 13 changes to his starting XV and will be backing his big guns to produce a big performance as they build towards this autumn's global showpiece on home soil.

Opposite number Gregor Townsend used July's clash with Italy to try out fresh combinations and selected a strong team for last week's game. His decision was vindicated as they came from 21-3 down to triumph 25-21, despite a red card for Zander Fagerson.

Townsend has been further boosted by the return to fitness of captain Jamie Ritchie who starts as one of six changes.

Scotland again look well stacked, but will need to be even better than last week if they are to get a result in Saint-Etienne on Saturday.

WhatFrance v Scotland
WhereStade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne
When20:05, Saturday 12th August
How to watchAmazon Prime
OddsFrance 1/10, Tie 33/1, Scotland 6/1

France to fly out of the traps

Despite losing at Murrayfield, France's mix-and-match side still dominated the opening half in Edinburgh and the returning big boys, who include half-backs Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, are likely to show similar vigour early on in Saint-Etienne.

Galthie's preference is for his side to fly out of the box, perhaps as a contingency as they are occasionally fallible to fatigue in the second half of matches, as was the case last week.

Les Bleus are 8/15 to score first and 2/5 to score the first try. That was the case in three of their five Six Nations matches, including their 32-21 win over the Scots in Paris, when they led 22-7 at half-time.

A repeat winning margin of 13-15 at the break in the hosts' favour is 7/1 and could be tempting for those punters expecting them to go out on the front foot.

However, like last Saturday and earlier in the year, Scotland could come back after the interval and 11/10 is available on neither team to win both halves.

Fabulous Fickou one to watch

France have regained their reputation as one the most exciting sides on the planet but their rise under Galthie has been complemented by their improvement without the ball.

Shaun Edwards has been the architect of their defensive system and the man who leads their rearguard on the field is Gael Fickou.

The Racing 92 star will start at outside centre on Saturday, but is equally comfortable in the inside channel and will regularly interchange roles with fellow midfielder Jonathan Danty.

He will also be on Danty's shoulder when France's number 12 inevitably breaks the gain line.

Fickou's defensive prowess is matched by his attacking talent and he has hurt the Scots in recent years, crossing in the pair's last two Six Nations meetings.

He is 11/5 as an Anytime Tryscorer and, and while wings Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe are worth watching, Fickou's opposite number Huw Jones could be Scotland's main strike weapon.

Jones scored two of Scotland's three tries in February and is 5/2 anytime and an intriguing 22/1 as a multi-scorer.

Cards could be on the agenda

It sounds like a cliche, but both of these teams play the game the right way, with fly-halves Ntamack and Finn Russell happy to throw the ball around.

However, that can lead to a loose game, especially at ruck time and discipline may prove to be an issue.

There were two red cards in their Six Nations meeting and Fagerson's dismissal, which means he will miss this match in Saint-Etienne, only adds to the feeling there could be more card action.

A yellow to be shown is just 1/2, while a red is 3/1 and might be worth considering.

That could prove to be a leveller. as Scotland showed last weekend and also in recent meetings that they are willing to go toe-to-toe with Les Blues, albeit with occasionally undesirable results.

Although they are unlikely to be on the right end of the scoreline, Scotland's showings in recent games hint that they should have enough to beat their +15 handicap at 11/10.

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