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Sean Maitland targeting vital Scottish victory over France

Scotland have not won the competition since 1999.

Scotland winger Sean Maitland admits Sunday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash with France is a “must-win” game for both sides.

The Dark Blues’ hopes of clinching a first championship title since 1999 suffered a blow in the form of a humiliating 34-7 defeat to Wales, while France lost out to a last-minute Johnny Sexton drop-goal in their opener against Ireland.

The nature of Scotland’s opening-day defeat has seen all optimism from outside the camp extinguished after they conceded four tries, and a further loss would all but end their chances of making history after such a promising start to life under Gregor Townsend.

Maitland, who is expected to replace the injured Byron McGuigan at BT Murrayfield on Sunday, is aware they need a result against a France side who may well be low on confidence themselves after losing such a close game.

He said: “They were very unlucky. If you take a spanking or lose like that, I’m not sure how you’d like to lose – those boys looked like they were hurting after the game.

“They’re in a similar situation to us, both picked up losses first up and we can’t afford to lose a second game.”

He added: “We know this is a really important game. The good thing for us is we’re playing at home, our form over the last two years has been really good playing at home.

“It’s a must-win game.”

The Saracens winger was perhaps a surprise omission from the starting XV named by Townsend last week, having been overlooked in favour of international newcomer McGuigan.

The Sale man’s injury means Maitland is poised to step in to reclaim his spot having started in the last game of the autumn series against Australia, but he has welcomes the competition in the squad.

“When you’re in the team you want to be have competition and over the last few years there has always been competition in the back three with me, Tommy (Seymour), Viss (Tim Visser) and now Byron has come on the scene,” he said.

“He was absolutely class in the Australia game and that’s what Gregor said, he deserved another chance.

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Sean Maitland was a substitute in Cardiff

“It’s a shame what happened to Byron with his hamstring, but there’s still a lot more competition with Lee Jones who played really well against the All Blacks. You need that to drive yourself.”

There is an added expectation on Scotland following two wins over the Wallabies last year and a narrow defeat against New Zealand, and flanker Hamish Watson accepts the players deserved the criticism thrown at them following the defeat.

He said: “I’d say it’s expected to get a bit of a backlash after a loss like that.

“I don’t think many people were expecting it and the fans are probably quite right to be a bit hacked off after a game like that, but no one’s hurting more than the players, so we need to put it right as well.”

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