Scotland must lick their wounds but France are facing a mutiny

As Scotland reflected on what might have been had they kept their heads against Ireland at the weekend, France
were descending into full revolution mode in the wake of an embarrassing capitulation at Twickenham.
It will be fascinating to see whose wounds have healed the fastest when both nations meet in Paris and the next round of Six Nations
fixtures kick into gear in just under a fortnight.
For Gregor Townsend, the walking wounded include Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones, whose shoulder and knee injuries, respectively, will be assessed this week. More troubling news came with confirmation that Ryan Wilson will be out for the remainder of the tournament with a knee injury.
For France, the problems run far deeper. In many regards, they are mental not physical.
It is difficult to quantify just how damaging and humiliating the 44-8 reverse to England was the Gallic psyche. In the aftermath, the pressure on coach Jacques Brunel is now intense. In some French quarters, there are already calls for him to go.
Among the players, there are also suggestions that they are fed up with the way they are being asked to play.
Scrum-half Morgan Parra revealed that preparation for their Six Nations clash at Twickenham failed to include even the most basic elements of top-level rugby.
'I think that we are capable of doing what the English do, but are we working on this during training? I think we don't work on it enough, even not at all,' the 30-year-old said.
'Yet these are very simple things that are today part of high level rugby. We can do this. But do we work on it? No.
'After such a masterclass, we all need to question ourselves. From A to Z. We, the players, try to find solutions but it is complicated.' Centre Mathieu Bastareaud added that finding solutions of any kind was going to be 'extremely hard', while lock Sebastien Vahaamahina said that 'we have to open our eyes on the areas we need to work on'.
French fans are already turning on their team. The vast empty spaces in the Stade de France for their opening game with Wales was telling. So was the fact that in that game they somehow let a 16-0 interval lead turn into a 24-19 defeat.
If there was anger after that, then the fury at the way their side went down to England on Sunday was barely disguised. Brunel cut a remote and removed figure watching the game. The murky world of French rugby politics remains at play here but one wonders how much longer the 65-year-old can survive.
And this is where Scotland come in. For all the disappointment of defeat to Ireland, the real bitter pill was that much of the damage was self-inflicted. Cut out the errors and a first victory in Paris for 20 years could be possible.
Surely there is never a better time to face Les Bleus? That is true, but still many things have to fall into place.
While the loss of Wilson is a blow, the emergence of Jamie Ritchie has been a distinct positive for Scotland. More of the same is required.
Against Ireland, the Edinburgh flanker was a stand-out. It is easy to forget that it was not until the autumn Tests last year that he announced himself on the international scene.
His work around the breakdown was impressive. He made 23 tackles, two breakdown steals and five ball carries. It might not be the pretty part of the game but it was effective.
Just 22 and still with only eight caps, Ritchie has established himself in Townsend's team and against the French will be asked to take on some of the burden left in Wilson's absence.
'All exposure is good exposure for the young guys and so far, so good for the Edinburgh boys,' said Ritchie's club coach, Richard Cockerill. 'Jamie has done really well and has grown into that back row role with Scotland. I am thrilled to have him on a contract here for a few more years yet as he is getting better and better.' The news that Hogg remains within Townsend's camp was welcome as his shoulder injury is assessed. His importance to the team is obvious and his presence in the starting line-up is another key component for Scottish success.
Still, Cockerill made the case on Monday that, should Hogg not make it, then Blair Kinghorn can be trusted to pick up his mantle.
'Blair can come in and do a job,' Cockerill insisted. 'Full-back is his favourite position and he is able to take more responsibility whenever he has to play there.
'He is a very good attacker from full-back and Scotland are blessed to have two very good 15s. Blair gives good cover on the wing, too, so you can understand why he has been in the Scotland 23 in their first two Six Nations games. You can understand Hogg starting at full-back and Blair being on the wing so far as you want to get your best players in your starting team.
'Fifteen is where we play him though and he can fit in there from the start at international level if needed no problems.' As for Jones, there is much debate already into why he remains a shadow of the player who took the tournament by storm last season.
Perhaps his injury gives Townsend a ready-made excuse to start Peter Horne in Paris and allow Jones to regroup and refocus.
And what of the mercurial Finn Russell, whose role in Sam Johnson's try at BT Murrayfield was breath-taking.
Worryingly, Russell and Greig Laidlaw have returned to their club sides in France and, away from the protective SRU bubble, are likely to be in domestic action this weekend.
Be sure that Townsend will have his fingers crossed they emerge unscathed. He certainly won't want some lumbering French journeyman knocking the stuffing out of them.
For sure, so many things have to fall into place for Scotland because the outcome of next weekend's encounter could rest on who has been able to recover the better from adversity.
The wounds of defeat run deep. We can only hope that it is France who have been unable to heal.

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