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French rugby team defeats colossal Scotland (WSJ)

Allez allez ! Turning out to be an eventful Six Nations rugby tournament. France defeated Scotland despite being the smaller team. The Wall Street Journal covers this story here. Excerpts below.

SPORTS FEBRUARY 7, 2011
French Scrum Too Fast for Scots

Europe’s Six Nations rugby series opens with a sharp lesson that big is not always best
For all the talk it inspires about gameplans and guile, international rugby union is still basically a game of brute force.

No matter how complex the offensive schemes or strategies in today’s game, it’s no secret that the final outcome usually hinges on the fearsome tangle for possession between 16 hulking giants known as the scrum.

“It’s like playing cards—the scrum is the ace in the game,” said Didier Retière, the France assistant coach.

This fundamental principle helps to explain the unusual approach adopted by Scotland head coach Andy Robinson for Saturday’s opening round of the Six Nations, the annual joust between Europe’s leading rugby countries.

Seeking to end a 12-year losing streak against France in Paris, Mr. Robinson assembled the biggest, toughest, strongest players he could find and sent them on to the field with one specific goal: To hammer the opposition scrum.

On paper, the resulting confrontation was a mismatch. Scotland started the game with the biggest eight-man pack in the history of this sport: Four Scottish players weighed 115 kilos or more and the entire group tipped the scales at 900 kilos. It wasn’t just their weight that stood out either—Nathan Hines, at 6ft 7in, was merely the third tallest member of the pack.

It meant that when the two teams lined up before the kick-off at the Stade de France, the Scottish forwards dwarfed their opponents: On average, the France pack was more than six kilos lighter and three inches shorter. But what happened next was nothing short of extradorinary. The undersized French forwards didn’t just hold up against the Scottish, they dominated them, paving the way for a 34-21 victory that wasn’t as close as the scoreline suggests. The official match statistics show that Scotland lost just one set scrum, but in reality France laid waste to the Scottish pack, repeatedly forcing the Scots to collapse the scrum and incur a penalty….

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