France start in style

New-look France got their RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign off to the perfect start with an impressive victory against lacklustre Scotland at Murrayfield. [more]

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New-look France got their RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign off to the perfect start with an impressive victory against lacklustre Scotland at Murrayfield.

Man of the match Vincent Clerc scored two tries, one in each half, to hand Marc Lievremont immediate success in his first match as coach of France.

Julien Malzieu, one of four debutants in the starting XV with a further two on the bench, also crossed for his maiden international try in the first half as the visitors proved too mobile and well organised for Frank Hadden’s side.

Scotland had gone into the game with high hopes that their settled side could get their Six Nations off to a successful start but could muster only six points from the boot of Dan Parks, who otherwise endured a miserable game.

Scotland’s more experienced side committed costly errors throughout whereas Lievremont’s youthful team, with only six players from the World Cup squad in the starting line-up, displayed admirable composure in carrying out their game-plan.

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The mistakes arrived right from the beginning of the game when – having been selected ahead of the world’s most reliable goalkicker, Chris Paterson – the opening kick-off from Parks sailed straight out of play to give France a scrum on halfway.

Scotland resisted their opponents’ first attack though and after they had regained possession the Glasgow man dropped a goal in the fourth minute to give his side a 3-0 lead.

France’s adventurous approach paid dividends when Cedric Haymans and Clerc twice combined beautifully down the right flank to send the Toulouse winger in for his 16th international try.

Jean-Baptiste Elissalde converted to give the visitors a 7-3 lead and Damien Traille increased that advantage five minutes later with a penalty from just inside Scotland’s half.

Parks pulled a penalty attempt wide of the posts and Scotland were quickly made to pay when full-back Rory Lamont – playing in another position Paterson has filled with success – and Parks failed to deal with a long kick ahead into the Scotland 22 and Malzieu pounced for a debut try in the 23rd minute.

On the stroke of the half hour, Scotland’s Sydney-born stand-off kicked his second penalty from close range to bring the score to 17-6.

Referee Alain Rolland deemed Scotland had collapsed a scrum in the 55th minute, the latest in a lengthy list of decisions which the hosts felt were harsh, and Traille kicked the penalty to stretch his side’s lead to 20-6.

Just after the hour mark Paterson was introduced in place of Parks to a great ovation from the Murrayfield crowd.

But the positive effect of the switch proved only limited as Clerc scored his second try in the 65th minute after collecting his own kick down the touchline. David Skrela converted to push France further ahead at 27-6.

Hope of a late revival arrived in the 70th minute through a darting run to within inches of the line from Paterson, but fellow replacement Chris Cusiter knocked on as he sought to touch down.

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