Christine Lester continues the build up to the 2011 RBS Six Nations with a look at Scotland and her predictions for their campaign.
Six Nations Pedigree:
In the last 10 years the highest Scotland has managed to place is 3rd in 2001 and 2006. The last time they won the competition it was still the 5 Nations back in 1999. Ahead of a highly-anticipated Rugby World Cup in September they will definitely be looking to make an impact amongst the teams of the Northern Hemisphere.
Best Six Nations moment:
That shock win over Ireland last year. It was Ireland’s last game at Croke Park, they were playing for the Triple Crown and there was a capacity crowd giving the home side a real advantage in the match. Scotland edged the win in the dying seconds thanks to the boot of Dan Parks, in a brilliant penalty kick:
Biggest Six Nations win: 32-10 (versus Ireland, 2001)
Biggest Six Nations defeat: 3-43 (versus England, 2001)
Current Form: W-W-W-L-W-W
Currently riding on a wave of confidence after winning 5 out of their last 6 matches, Scotland are looking to continue this good form throughout the competition. The autumn tests against South Africa and Samoa demonstrated how well they can gel together as a team and pose a serious threat to many teams, and they are currently ranked 6th in the world, their highest achievement to date.
Followingthe win against Ireland they beat Argentina in the summer tests, before losing heavily to an in-form New Zealand. Within a week however they had turned things around and were impressive against world champions South Africa and Samoa. With three new players in a team that fields 11 Glasgow Warriors players and 9 Edinburgh Rugby players, maintaining their form will be key when they run out against France next week.
Key player: Alistair Kellock
An experienced player for Scotland and Glasgow Warriors, Kellock has been given the captain’s armband for the competition, and it is highly likely that he will retain the armband through to the World Cup too. He led the team to decisive victories against Argentina in the summer, and was also at the helm in Scotland’s first victory against the Wallabies in 27 years back in 2009. He is a natural at captaining Glasgow and is the form lock, definitely one who leads by example, and should really motivate and drive his team through the good and bad.
One to watch: Robert Harley
Another Warriors player, Harley is one of the three uncapped players named in the 34-strong Scotland squad. He has represented his country at ‘A’ Level and has impressed head coach Andy Robinson with his performances both there and over the past season with Warriors, having joined them in the summer of 2010. He can play at flanker or lock where there is fierce competition in the Scotland squad, but at only 20 years old, he has some real skill and potential that could see him as a permanent fixture in future national teams.
RBS Six Nations Fixtures:
Saturday 5th February, France v Scotland, 17:00, Stade de France
Saturday 12th February, Scotland v Wales, 17:00, Murrayfield
Sunday 27th February, Scotland v Ireland, 15:00, Murrayfield
Sunday 13th March, England v Scotland, 15:00, Twickenham
Saturday 19th March, Scotland v Italy, 14:30, Murrayfield
Key clash: Scotland v Ireland
Coming right in the middle of the competition this clash could really upset the cart. Ireland have been dogged by injury, missing several of their key players, and are also looking to end a run of bad results. Scotland have the benefit of the draw and will have the home advantage in front of what will undoubtedly be a capacity crowd at Murrayfield. This is not to brush aside their other clashes, as the game at home to Wales and the game away to England will be of great import to the team.
Odds: 14/1 to win from Paddy Power.
Argument that says they can win it:
Aside from the defeat to the All Blacks, you cannot deny that Scotland have improved, and are really playing as a team. With a large proportion of Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby players in the squad they know each other well, and should not need time to bond as a team. They can play some brilliantly quick rugby, especially from the set pieces, and have some real strength in the pack. Add into the mix some confidence and a positive mentality, and these boys in the north could prove a shock winner.
Argument that says they can’t:
Scotland have a poor Six Nations record, despite good summer and autumn runs. They seem to have an inability to maintain that winning momentum and go to the other extreme of being shoddy and careless when they have the ball. And in a competition like this you cannot afford to make those kind of slip ups. With large proportions of players coming from relatively minor Magners League teams there can be a real lack of quality players in the group, that even with stand out performances from household names Parks, Evans and Cusiter cannot stand up to the rest of the 6 Nations teams.
Andy Robinson: “What’s important for us is that we’re in control of our destiny, and focus on what we’re good at. We have to be at our very best whenever we play. If we’re at our best, we can win these games. If we’re not at our best, we’ll get beaten.”
Alistair Kellock: “I am really looking forward to running out against France to start our Six Nations this year as captain as it is a role I do enjoy and I honestly believe it adds to my game, and I will be looking to lead by example throughout the tournament and hopefully lead Scotland to some success. I have to be playing well to get into the team let alone be selected as captain in the first place so I am not taking anything for granted. It was a great honour to captain Scotland in Argentina and we managed a couple of great results out there and now I can’t wait to lead the team out against France.”
Finish one place up from last year: 4th
Highlights of Scotland’s victory over South Africa: