Scotland 9-18 France, Six Nations, February 7
Robinson laments Scottish defence
February 7, 2010

Scotland coach Andy Robinson lamented his side's failure to respect the ball following their 18-9 Six Nations defeat to France at Murrayfield.

France ran out 18-9 winners at Murrayfield thanks largely to two tries from centre Mathieu Bastareaud but could have scored even more points after completely dominating proceedings. But Robinson refused to be too downcast and insisted it was a case of missed opportunities for his own side.

"The most significant difference was in that first half, the two chances that they had, they took beautifully," he said. "And when we had various opportunities, we didn't hold onto the ball, particularly in the first half. But also I thought the French scramble defence, particularly through (Imanol) Harinordoquy, was very good.

"We needed to control the scoreboard in this game and we were unable to do that through turning over possession in our half during that first 30 minutes. That was not really respecting the ball, the ball being knocked out of our hands on four or five occasions."

Scotland were demolished at the scrum at times, and Robinson believes his forwards will learn the lessons from this afternoon. "We respect the French scrum and they're a very good scrummaging side," he said. "Our young lads have learnt a lot today and certainly when we got the hit right, we had two or three powerful scrums. But we've got to get the consistency of that right."

Robinson admitted the substitution of fly-half Phil Godman early in the second half - which was greeted with ironic cheers at Murrayfield - was tactical. But he refused to criticise the Edinburgh man, who was replaced by Hugo Southwell, with Chris Paterson moving to stand-off.

"I thought we needed to establish some field position," Robinson said. "If we were going to keep turning the ball over in our half, it was going to be difficult for us."

And despite losing his second game in a row after winning his opening two matches last November, Robinson was confident Scotland were heading in the right direction. "We've got a belief in what we're trying to do," said Robinson, who revealed prop Alasdair Dickinson had suffered a sore neck today. That's the work that's in progress and the work we're developing over the next three or four matches."

France head coach Marc Lievremont was reluctant to discuss the performance of monster centre Bastareaud, who was playing his first Test since disgracing himself during his country's summer tour of New Zealand. The 21-year-old falsely claimed he had been assaulted following a night out in Wellington when in fact he had hit his head in a drunken fall. The fallout led the centre to contemplate suicide but today's game saw him begin to repair his battered reputation.

"We are very happy, obviously," Lievremont said of Bastareaud. "We were happy for his performance but also the team performance. Mathieu was just like any other player today. The management certainly did not put any extra pressure on him."

Lievremont was particularly pleased with his pack, saying: "Yes, very much, because they put the Scottish scrummage under repeated pressure throughout the match. We're perhaps disappointed that our vast dominance in the scrummage was not rewarded with more points. We need to improve our finishing but we also had to deal with a good, brave and enterprising Scottish team."

Today was a repeat of Lievremont's first match in charge of France two years ago and he insisted Scotland were a better side than in 2008. "I admire their rugby but it's true they lack a little bit of firepower," he said. "I feel that Scotland have made progress but today they were up against an even better French team than they were two years ago."

France lost wing Aurelien Rougerie to injury inside five minutes but Lievremont was hopeful he would recover in time for next week's clash with Ireland in Paris. He concluded, "Our ambition is to win the competition and we're happy with our performance so far."


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