Rory Darge urges Scotland to match French physicality and expects big reaction from Six Nations visitors
Fabien Galthie’s side turned in an uncharacteristically error-strewn performance in losing 38-17 at home to Ireland last Friday and received a filleting from the French press. France clearly missed Antoine Dupont, as any side would, and his replacement Maxime Lucu endured a difficult evening in Marseille. But Darge was at pains to point out that the 2022 Grand Slam champions have many more strings to their bow.
“I think they’ve got loads of talent outside of Antoine Dupont,” said Darge who will co-captain Scotland alongside Finn Russell. “He’s obviously a quality, quality player and I actually think he helps marshal the power game that they have. But they’re all used to it, they’ve been in that environment for long enough and I’m not expecting anything less than what they’ve shown in the last couple of years.
“I think we’ll see a reaction after last week and I think they’ll use their power game with lots of physicality and emotion. We can’t worry too much about that, we just have to concentrate on our physicality, our emotion and getting that right. The physical side of things is something we’ve really talked about. You have to get it right against them. Once they get that roll on with the power game then they’ve got the quality outside of that to cause issues.”
Darge missed Scotland’s win over Wales last weekend as he completed his recovery from strained knee ligaments. He has not played for six weeks but “feels fresh” and ready to embrace the captaincy at the relatively young age of 23. “I think I’m really lucky to be doing it with Finn,” said Darge. “He’s a guy who’s really level-headed. We’re quite different in the way we play, and I think that’s a good balance. We’ll see on Saturday, but I think it will work well.”
He laughed off the notion that he and Russell would be a ‘good cop, bad cop’ combination but expected both to be involved in regular dialogue with referee Nic Berry. “I think it will happen naturally. There are certain aspects where it will make sense for me to speak to the referee, and also it’s about who’s in the vicinity – if he’s at a scrum he’s not going to run over to Finn and ask him about that. I think it will happen more naturally than people might think.”
The manner of France’s loss to Ireland is still a source of some pain for the visitors and Shaun Edwards, their defence coach, bristled when asked about it at Murrayfield on Friday. The rugby league great insisted it was a one-off. “We had the best defence at the World Cup, mate,” he pointed out to one interrogator.
“I am normally angry when we lose,” Edwards added. “It means a lot to me and I know how much it means to the people of France, the France supporters. In the last four years we have a 75 per cent win ratio, 80 per cent sometimes. It is the only time I feel we did not perform anywhere near the level we normally do.”
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