Scotland targeting a flying start at Stade de France

Greig Laidlaw wants to silence the home crowd
Greig Laidlaw wants to silence the home crowd
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Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw is targeting another flying start from his team this weekend in a bid to get the notoriously fickle French crowd on the backs of their own team at an early stage.

After winning their opening Six Nations game for the first time in 11 years with a 27-22 victory over Ireland last Saturday, the Scots now travel to Stade de France on Sunday aiming to break their 18-year Paris hoodoo.

The triumph over the Irish was built upon three first-half tries and Laidlaw senses that a similarly strong start could neutralise the passionate home crowd and heap pressure on a team which has lost their opener 19-16 to England at Twickenham.

“The crowd is different from other rugby crowds and that’s something we can use to our advantage,” said Laidlaw. “Game day there is a bit different, with the traditional French bands playing. It’s a brilliant stadium to play at.

“That first 20 minutes, it’s very, very important for us playing away from home. If you can hear the whistling from the crowd in France, you know you’re doing something right in the game.

“We focus on the start of the game and, although we’ll need to play for 80 minutes, hopefully we can turn the crowd against them a bit early on.”

Laidlaw said Scotland allowed the warm glow of last Saturday’s win to drift into Sunday afternoon before the focus made a decisive switch towards Paris.

The Scots are keen to ensure that the superb victory over the Irish is not spoiled by a slip backwards in the French capital and said the squad was aware that facing a hugely-physical Les Bleus outfit on their home patch presents a whole new challenge.

“Those are the moments you play the game for, that euphoria and binge with you team-mates after the game,” said the skipper, who stroked over the decisive penalties on Saturday after Ireland had roared back to lead 22-21 in the second half.

“But that probably lasted until Sunday afternoon. Then we started turning our attention to France. However delighted we were with the win, it’s only one. We’re focused now on France.

“There are things to tidy up in our game because, in our analysis, we noticed that we missed a few opportunities.

“In this squad, it’s always about developing our game. The forwards have been working hard on set-pieces and, in the backs, we’ve been tightening a few things up. You can always get better.”

France’s match at Twickenham, in which they were unfortunate to lose after having the champions on the back foot with some dynamic periods of play, has provided plenty of food for thought in the Scotland camp.

“As of Monday, we started looking at France. That’s the nature of the business, you move straight on to the next job and France are a very dangerous side, very dangerous,” continued Laidlaw.

“They will be disappointed with their recent form, because they haven’t been winning games, but we know how dangerous they can be.

“They’ve got a very powerful forward pack and a couple of dangerous runners out wide, so we need to play really well – and really smart – to get something out of this game.”

He may have ended on the losing side but powerhouse French back-rower Louis Picamoles was arguably the star performer of the opening weekend and Laidlaw, who has encountered him at club level in the Aviva Premiership, is aware that the Northampton player likes to target the half-back channel with his barnstorming attacks.

“He’s a quality player, as much as he has got power he’s got subtle steps as well, moves away from you,” said Laidlaw. “He caused England a lot of problems at the weekend and we need to deal with him.

“It not just his power but it’s his offloading ability as well, he gets them on the front foot. You can see why [France coach] Guy Noves has him back in the team, he coached him for a number of years down at Toulouse, that familiarity obviously has a lot to do with why he’s been picked, but there’s other quality players as well within the squad.

“He pretty much created a try out of nothing when we played at Franklin’s Gardens and they won by four points. He’s a dangerous player and I’ve seen him close up already this season.”