Blair’s big chance as Scotland look to finally make their pressure count

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Scrum-half Mike Blair believes speed of ball remains the key ingredient as Scotland bid to upset France in the RBS Six Nations at Murrayfield tomorrow.

Blair has been restored to the starting line-up as Scotland seek to make amends for the losses to England and Wales with a first win of the tournament and just a second victory over France since the Five Nations became Six in 2000.

Blair, who is set to win his 78th cap after replacing Chris Cusiter in the starting XV, said: “If we can continue to get the quick ball we’ve had in the last two games we’ll certainly give ourselves opportunities.

“There have been so many positives to have come out of the first two games, which almost makes things even more frustrating.

“The problem is that the negatives we’ve had have had a big effect on us. Our negatives have resulted in them scoring a try or kicking goals and our positives haven’t.

“We’ve been able to put pressure on, but we haven’t been able to make that pressure count.

“That’s a big thing for us – being able to turn that pressure into points.”

Scotland’s game plan is an expansive one, aimed at multiple phases of play to wear down the opposition and then to exploit any opportunities which arise.

Tomorrow’s game hinges on the performance of Scotland’s forwards – their ability to go toe-to-toe with a French pack as good as any other in world rugby and one which ripped them apart in the last meeting 12 months ago.

Blair added: “The forwards have done really well in the last two games, but the French, a lot of their strength is in their set-piece.

“They’ve got a huge front five, a couple of extra line-out specialists in their back row.

“Parity is something we’re certainly looking for there.”

John Barclay, normally an openside flanker, has been named at blindside this weekend and will be assigned to secure quick ball for Scotland.

“It all adds to improving the speed of the game,” added Blair.

“We lose a little bit of bulk there, but we make up for it in speed around the pitch.

“John’s a very clever rugby player. He’s your classic rugby player, he’s not just a forward - he knows what he’s doing and is constantly thinking about how he can get into the game.

“It’s a massive game for him.”

It is also a big chance for Blair, having returned to the No 9 jersey to join his Edinburgh team-mates Greig Laidlaw and David Denton on the field.