By Lucky Maree
There is a burning question asked that will only be finally answered at the Rugby World Cup in September.
As Ireland, the Springboks and Scotland are in the same pool, which team will get knocked out in the pool stage? The clever money believes Scotland will finish third in what is, in fact, a pool of death.
Yes, Scotland has had one helluva magical run in the Six Nations and coach Gregor Townsend has done a wonderful job. Will the magic ride end today when Scotland meet France at Stade de France in Paris or will the World Cup question be answered today?
It takes only four minutes for France to score a converted try and that is some sort of answer.
An interesting game nonetheless. Until the ref whips out his red card and lock Grant Gilchrist is sent off, which effectively means an exciting game can now be labelled of “academic interest”.
After seven minutes the French score a try and lead by 10 points.
We go from bad to worse when French front-rower Mohamed Haouas also gets served a red card and now whoever wins, sadly it is a meaningless contest.
To be clear, it’s not about the referee (although some refs seem worse than others), Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli is not to blame. He is merely applying the rules. It is the rule that ignores the basic principal that rugby union is a game for 15 players per side that is the problem. (Ironically, rugby league is played by 13-players per side and that is often suggested as a solution to the problem of too many big and fast players all over the place.)
After 21 minutes France are 19-0 ahead with three tries in spite of Scotland trying to make a game of it.
After 25 minutes, Finn Russell puts Huw Jones into the gap with a brilliant pass and they pull back seven points.
Full credit to the players still on the field, none of them stop playing and there are still some moments of individual brilliance. If there were only two players left on the field, and one of them is Finn Russell, it would still be worth watching.
At halftime, the French have an 11 point lead and still need one try for the bonus point.
With 20 minutes to go the difference is still 11 points after the teams trade penalties, otherwise there is no score.
With ten minutes left to go, Finn Russell gets a try that he converts and the difference is now down to four points. France will have to display the skills they are known for, as the determined Scots keep going forward.
With 30 seconds to go the Scots eventually allow the French to break the defences and Gael Fickou scores the bonus point try and takes the game beyond the seven point margin for a Scots bonus point.
A fight to the finish. Scotland made a fight of it, France walked away with the spoils.
France (4 tries) 32-21 (3 tries) Scotland
Pictured above: Is Finn Russell the best flyhalf in the Six Nations?