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A battle of hearts and minds for French after lack of spirit displayed in Cardiff

MOST of the visiting supporters, and many of the home ones, think France are near-certainties to win at Murrayfield today.

The visiting coaches disagree. For them, Scotland are the team with the bulk and the power to dominate, while their players will be relying on mental strength to bounce back from their surrender in Cardiff.

"They [Scotland] are bigger and heavier for sure but in combat sports one of the keys is in the mind," said Yannick Bru, the French forwards coach. "We are very disappointed in the performance two weeks ago and I hope that the guys will be mentally strong to fight the Scottish guys.

"Last time, the spirit of the French team was not positive, so the first thing we expect is that they show a good spirit this time. It will be a very physical game. Looking at the Scottish team we see it is very physical in both the forwards and backs and they play positive rugby. We have said to our boys it will be a very tough game.

"Even if some of the French media think it is normal for us to beat Scotland, we have kept telling the boys it will be very, very hard because that team is very strong, without many weaknesses. We saw that with their victory over Italy. We played Italy a few weeks ago so we know it is never easy to beat them."

One reason Scotland are going to face a real battle is that for the French this game is as much about redemption after their woeful display against Wales as it is about the result.

They are missing small galaxy of stars but few nations are better equipped to handle that sort of loss and Bru is adamant they are not going to use that as an excuse. Nor is it the only reason seven changes have been made to the team.

"We were not satisfied with the general behaviour on the pitch and made some changes because of that," he said. "The attitude of some of the guys was not satisfying. We said to the squad we have to give a better image of the national rugby team."

Much of the focus has been on Sebastien Vahaamahina, switched from his usual role as lock to flanker for the first time in a meaningful game. "I don't want to describe it as a gamble because we are convinced it is not a short-term experiment," Bru said. "We have been thinking about it for 18 months. He is a young player, very skilled and very explosive.

"At the moment in French rugby we have good locks, four or five options, but we have a lack of power in the six, seven and eight positions. We are convinced Sebastien has all the qualities to be a very good flanker. We are worried about many things, particularly after the deception of last week, but not particularly about the back row."

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