Six Nations Pedigree:
Many people thought that the 2011 Six Nations would be the one where Scotland stepped up their game, especially given the fact that the World Cup was no longer a distant prospect, it was imminent. But as with many years previously Scotland were found to be languishing at the bottom of the table with Italy. They have not won the competition since it became the 6 Nations, however they have proved tough competitors over the years, scoring some surprise victories against bigger opposition.
Best Six Nations moment:
When I consulted Scotland fans on this, all of them immediately go for the 1990 Grand Slam, or beating England and France in 2005, or the more recent 2010 victory over Ireland in their last game at Croke Park.
Biggest Six Nations Win: 32-10 (versus Ireland, 2001)
Biggest Six Nations Defeat: 3-43 (versus England, 2001)
Current Form: W-W-W-W-L-L
Key player: Chris Cusiter
His experience in the international arena will prove crucial for Scotland if Andy Robinson takes the chance on the younger elements of the squad. He has formed an excellent working partnership with young fly half Duncan Weir, and exerts the control over the game that Weir has yet to learn. This year it will be about balance for Scotland; the older elements such as Cusiter will be balancing the vim and vigour of the newer players. If it can be achieved properly then we will begin to see the full realization of Scotland’s potential
One to Watch: Stuart Hogg
The surprise rise of the season to everyone who follows Scottish Rugby. Joining Glasgow Warriors this season as an elite development player, he was rewarded for his hard work and excellent play at full back in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 with a professional contract with the club. With Chris Paterson retired from international rugby, and Rory Lamont a doubt thanks to injury, Stuart Hogg may find himself thrust into the limelight of the international arena. He reads the game well for one so young, and when combined with his pace and excellent play with the ball in hand he will be a big feature in the future of Scottish Rugby, and definitely one to watch this Six Nations.
RBS Six Nations Fixtures:
4th Feb: v England, Murrayfield, 17:00
12th Feb: v Wales, Millennium stadium, 15:00
26th Feb: v France, Murrayfield, 15:00
10th Mar: v Ireland, Aviva Stadium, 17:00
17th Mar: v Italy, Stadio Olimpico, 12:30
Key Clash: Scotland v England
This match against the Auld Enemy kicks off Scotland’s Six Nations campaign. The fact that the last time these two teams played each other ended Scotland’s World Cup progression means that there will be no love lost in this match. Scotland will be looking to redress the balance, and given that this match will be played at Murrayfield, the new look England side will face a tough crowd in Edinburgh. With their opposition in very public disarray over the previous months, Scotland has been quietly debriefing, analyzing, and rebuilding their squad, with no public fall out. This match will be when we see what has been going on behind the scenes. As with any team, Scotland will be looking to get their 6Nations off to the best possible start and a win at Murrayfield over the team that put them out of the world cup, would provide that.
Odds: 25/1 outright winners. From William Hill
Argument that says they can win it: Whilst other squads have been hit hard with injuries to key players, the Scottish side, although not without their fair share of injuries have got the new young talent to come in and shine. The recent good form of both Edinburgh and Glasgow speaks volumes for the talent coming through the Scottish ranks, and with the bigger names out, this would be the time for the younger players to stand up and be counted. Other managers may be agonizing over who could provide the relevant level of cover where injury is forcing players out, but not Andy Robinson, and it is this wealth of new talent that will win the competition for them.
Argument that says they can’t: Good form of the two professional clubs aside, Scotland seem to go to pieces whenever it comes around to these international competitions. It is in tactics that Scotland lack that killer edge: the backs too often find themselves isolated because they do not pass the ball, the pressure gets to them leading to mistakes being made at the breakdown, and the defence can be incredibly scrappy. Regardless of whether or not other teams are in disarray, Scotland does not have that additional ruthlessness that will exploit this to full effect.
Coach says: “You face that every Six Nations, where teams will bring something new. We’ve just got to focus on ourselves and what we’re going to do. We’ve got to control what we can control. We don’t want to get into a situation that we’ve been in in the last two Six Nations with me in charge with us coming to the last game not having won. We understand the pressure that’s there. I’m building the pressure on that because we can’t hide from it.”
Captain says: “For me, the big thing is leading from the front and actually showing a good example to the boys as well as backing it up with words. First and foremost is ‘do it’. Do it for everyone to see, and that’s the way I’ll be looking to lead the team.”