France v Scotland: Scott Steele would relish chance to do battle with Antoine Dupont

Twelve months ago Scott Steele was without a club. Now the Scotland scrum-half is on the brink of testing himself against the best player in the world.

Scott Steele scores Scotland's sixth try during the win over Italy. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Should Steele get the nod to play against France in Friday’s Six Nations finale, he will find himself in direct competition with Antoine Dupont.

The French No 9 was the player of the Championship last year and is widely regarded as the form player in world rugby.

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It will be a searching examination of Steele’s credentials but the Harlequins man is relishing the challenge.

“You want to test yourself against the best – and he’s playing some great stuff at the minute,” Steele said of Dupont.

“He’s got a pretty big forward pack in front of him, giving him a good platform.

“But, as a rugby player, you always want to play against the very best. That’s something I’ll look forward to if I get the opportunity. I’d relish it.

“We know the challenge ahead. France are going to be tough, a real physical team who have been playing some great rugby.

“But, if we focus on being the best we can be, there’s no reason we can’t go over there and get a win.”

The feisty Steele made his first international start in Saturday’s 52-10 demolition of Italy and his performance earned praise from Gregor Townsend. The scrum-half marked the occasion with a second-half try and his slick delivery kept the Scotland attack motoring.

With Stuart Hogg deployed at stand-off, it was an unusual halfback pairing. Finn Russell will return at 10 for France, with Hogg reverting to full-back, but Townsend must decide between Steele and Ali Price for the No 9 role in Paris.

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Whether he starts or is on the bench, the Dumfries-born Steele has enjoyed an impressive breakthrough campaign for Scotland. Around this time last year he was told by his then club London Irish that he would not be offered a new contract. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as coronavirus hit the country and sport ground to a halt.

It was a shock to the system for Steele, but he worked hard on his fitness over the extended close season and was offered a deal by Harlequins. He seized the opportunity with both hands and quickly came to Townsend’s attention, his versatility and willingness making him a real asset for Scotland.

His international debut against Wales last October saw him shunted to the wing as a string of injuries forced a hasty reshuffle and he was chucked on as an emergency forward against Ireland last week.

In between, he played his part as a replacement scrum-half in the historic win over England at Twickenham last month, before getting his first start on Saturday.

“It was exciting to know I would be getting a proper crack at nine,” he said.

“It was a bit less nerve-wracking playing in my usual position rather than coming on in the back row and not really having a clue what was going on.

“And the game was great. To score eight tries was good for everyone and shows we played some good stuff out there.

“There are still a lot of things we can fix up but personally for me to get a try and a first start was amazing.”

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