All in all, this has been one of Scotland’s better years in recent memory – if you exclude the percentage of wins, that is. Scott Johnson has come in and tightened everything up and player performances have been, mainly, quite good. It helps that Glasgow have been playing well in the RaboDirect PRO12, and now one of Scotland’s main aims should be to increase the amount of talented young players that are starting to come through.
Coming third in the Six Nations and winning two out of the five games – Scotland’s best placed finish since 2006. It wasn’t the prettiest of campaigns but wins against Italy and Ireland and clinical finishing from the back three of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tim Visser kept Scotland ahead of Italy on points difference.
Scott Johnson’s term as interim head coach can be deemed somewhat of a success considering the injuries suffered over the year and the opposition played, and the capture of a world-class coach in the shape of Vern Cotter is hopefully a sign of success for next year.
He was once regarded as the best player in Scotland, a national captain and a British and Irish Lion, but this season, Ross Ford’s performances have been shoddy at best. A hooker’s job is to hit his targets at the lineout and to regain the ball in the scrum but Ford has done none of this and many are calling for him to be dropped for good. The same can be said for another Lion – Euan Murray.
It was also disappointing the amount of injuries that occurred after the Six Nations. You can’t take much from Scotland’s summer tour to South Africa due the amount of second-string players playing, and injuries to key players Matt Scott, Hogg and Visser in the autumn ruined things slightly.
Player of the year
This was the year that Stuart Hogg finally cemented his place as a top-class international player. He played brilliantly in the Six Nations – scoring two tries – and was called up to the Lions tour, where he probably would have started were it not for the amazing Leigh Halfpenny. Tim Visser and Greig Laidlaw both had solid seasons also and were perhaps unlucky not to get called up to that Australia tour alongside Hogg, Maitland, Richie Gray and Ryan Grant.
Emerging player of the year
Matt Scott is a class act and injuries permitting, he should be a mainstay in the centres for years to come. His experience as a ten means he has the distribution and playmaking ability that modern 12s need nowadays, but he still has the raw bulldozing game that can smash through defences. He’s intelligent, has a boot on him and puts his body on the line when needed.
What to expect in 2014
The foundations have been set, now Scotland need to improve on them. They finally have clinical finishers in the backline, a world-class goal kicker and a couple of fly-halves who have the influence to change a game if needed. The front-row needs to be a bit sturdier but we have young, physical locks and a mobile back-row.
Expect a similar standing in the 2014 Six Nations and, depending on opposition, a possible unbeaten summer tour and solid performances in the autumn. Once Vern Cotter takes up his role as head coach, Scotland’s attack will hopefully liven up and they can play with some of the panache that they are capable of.
By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images