Let’s get this off my chest right now. Scotland have been cheated, utterly cheated, by the Six Nations organisers and the English Premiership, but mostly the former.

It was not Scotland’s fault that the match originally scheduled for last month was postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the French camp. If there had been any justice, Scotland should have been awarded the match and bonus point with a 28-0 scoreline, because clearly the France management and players were at fault. But no, the broadcasters need to be kept satisfied and so the game goes ahead with Scotland unable to field its best squad because the Premiership clubs say so.

Because tonight’s match falls outside the international window, Gregor Townsend can only select five English-based players because the Six Nations didn’t stump up enough cash to cover their absence from their clubs.

Andy Nicol got it spot on with a tweet the other day: “So @premrugby are only allowing @scotlandteam 5 players for the rearranged @SixNationsRugby against France on Friday as that is all they have been paid for!! Six Nations and PRL hang your heads in shame!! Money talks even in a pandemic! #scandalous.”

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Brian Moore, who don’t forget is a qualified lawyer, replied to that tweet to confirm that the Six Nations was not paying for player release outside the agreed international window, so I know who I am blaming for this fiasco – the Six Nations board, who should all resign for their lack of foresight of a situation that I predicted months ago might happen. And don’t forget that it was the French Government who threatened to pull the plug on the whole tournament if the other five nations brought Covid anywhere near their precious lads – oops, look who got the damn virus and which Government changed their tune…

Poor Sean Maitland is the main man to miss out – that’s the Sean Maitland who scored two tries against France at Murrayfield last year and ruined their Grand Slam chances.  It’s desperately unfair that he will not get a cap, and I just hope our guys stand with him and that we can do Wales a favour and stop France winning by enough to take the title.

It’s all fair ruined my anticipation of a fixture I have always loved. Heading to France to watch Scotland play in the Five and then Six Nations was always a pleasure until the recent innovations when matches began to be played on different days and at different times.

When we were just overgrown boys you went by bus or train but when the cost of flights became much cheaper, you either booked up early or went on a charter, arriving in or near Paris on Friday afternoon. A bit of the obligatory fun and games on Friday night, some sightseeing on Saturday morning, the match on Saturday afternoon and then the drowning of sorrows on Saturday night because yet again we had not beaten Les Bleus. Going home on the Sunday was always fraught with hangover-induced difficulties but the ‘modernisation’ of dates and times thanks to the broadcasters’ demands has ruined what used to be a beautiful weekend. 

HeraldScotland:

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All those years without a win and then along came 1995 and 1999 and it seemed as though the Earth had shifted on its axis. The first of those years saw Scotland win in Paris for the first time in 26 years, and the second win was a carnival of incredible Scottish rugby that will never be forgotten. Five tries in the first 27 minutes put us Scots in heaven, and of course, Wales beat England the following day at Wembley to give us the last ever Five Nations Championship.

No Scottish fan will need reminding that we have not won in France since the Six Nations began, and discounting World Cup matches, warm up matches and last year’s Autumn Cup, our record against France has been pretty dismal. In the 15 championships between 2000 and 2015, Scotland lost every match either in Paris or Murrayfield, except for the 20-16 victory at Murrayfield in 2006.

Since 2016, however, Scotland has won three Six Nations matches at home, and ran them close in 2017 while I thought France were flattered by the 27-10 scoreline in their favour two years ago.

That match saw a Six Nations debut in the No 10 shirt for Romain Ntamack and it is he who I think holds the key to tonight’s game. France have the world’s best player just now in the shape of Antoine Dupont and if Ntamack can link up productively with the scrum-half then Scotland might as well stay at home in their bubble.

I am hoping that Finn Russell will give Ntamack a lesson, however, and will hopefully get a supply of enough ball to be at his best. 

On form France look to be hot favourites but don’t rule out Scotland getting their collective dander up due to the unfairness of the situation. I think they may not win but will ruin France’s party.