Having not had the opportunity to post for a while now I thought I had better remove my finger and provide the world with some more of my ramblings.
You guys have had it too good since New Year, having the pleasure of Rory’s well-considered musings on the game. As with any good partnership you need the Yin and Yang – I am the screaming, cursing, bipolar (“we’re great…nah, we’re sh*te”), Townsend-sceptic rugby fan in comparison to Rory’s deer-stalker wearing, drinks out the back of the Land Rover, Townsend-lovin’ rugby toff. As such my musings are formed purely of prejudice, half-baked ideas and a tenuous knowledge of the rules (I played in the front row, no need for rules!).
The 6 Nations are less that 2 weeks away and this year’s tournament looks like it is shaping up to be a cracker. The Northern Hemisphere’s premier tournament is always essential viewing but this year there is a general feeling that pretty much every team has the ability to pick up results…well maybe except England! Here are my thoughts on Scotland in the lead up to the big kick-off, look out for my views on the other teams in the coming days:
Every year, without fail, I’ll look at the Scotland squad and think to myself that it looks pretty strong and that with a wee bit of luck this could be the year we string some result together and maybe claim a wee bit of glory. Every year I’m wrong and the last couple of 6 Nations have seen Scotland win 2 games…out of 10! Can this be the year where Scotland turn promise into results?
Hadden has by far and away his strongest squad in his tenure as top dog. A pack that is possibility the best in the tournament and a set of backs that, whilst not the finished article, look like they might actually score some points. The club sides are producing good results (think Glasgow and Edinburgh winning in France) and are pushing at the right end of the Magners League. Key to their success has been the breakthrough of a number of younger players and this has fed into the national side where an injection of fresh blood has been needed for sometime now. Since the last 6 Nations the national team has toured Argentina picking up a win in the process and put in 2 encouraging displays in their Autumn Internationals (didn’t see the NZ game but didn’t sound great). The game against South Africa, the world champions, showed just how far the team have come…and how far they still have to go. We bullied the South Africans around in the pack. The forwards were tight and very, very aggressive. The backs ran good angles and with a little more precision could have scored more points. That though is where they still have issue: finishing off the chances they create. For Scotland to prosper this coming 6 Nations they need to take the form from the South Africa and Canada games and add the finishing – if, and it’s still a big if, they can do that then they may well have a very good tournament.
This Scotland team has the look of a team that is still a distance from peaking (2011 would be nice!) but if they continue to develop at the same rate as the last 12 months then the future should be good, or at least better than what has gone before. A successful Scotland side will help ensure that the punters turn up in number ensuring more money into the SRU coffers which will then, hopefully be fed into the grass routes (and not Chris Cusiter’s pockets!) to bring on the next generation of players.
A quick note on Hadden, who like his squad, appears to have come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months. I’ve never been a huge fan (despite the fact he put up while Rory and I dribbling drunken nonsense to him in St Etienne) but he seems to have got a better idea of the game he wants to play. Like most Scotland fans I’m delighted that Dan Parks has burnt the dodgy pictures he must have had of Hadden and he is no longer compelled to pick him. Hadden has a depth of squad that has not been available to him in the last couple of years and this should allow him to develop a Plan B in the case any games are going pear shaped. Of course this means that the excuses that Hadden has used to cover his own inadequacies are not going to wash. This tournament will cast a fair eye over Hadden’s abilities at this level.
Finally, the backroom staff appears to be doing a good job, the pack is tight (although the lineout is still in need of work) and provide an extremely solid base for attacking the opposition. As much as I was never a huge Townsend fan when he was a player (way too erratic) if his coaching is half as good as his thoughts on the game then we should see a back line that will trouble even the best sides in the world.
So, can Scotland win the 6 Nations? Yes!
Really? Well it’s certainly not outwith the realms of possibility and we are certainly due a run of luck in terms of injuries and the bounce of the ball…
The first game against Wales is the key. Wales, off the back of a Grand Slam and a decent set of Autumn Internationals will be looking to start strong but Murrayfield is far from a happy hunting ground for the singing coal miners. Presuming Scotland don’t forget how to tackle, they will fancy bloodying the noses of the Welsh and setting up a lip-smacking clash in Paris the following week. The other home games should be winnable (the Irish are on the slide in my opinion, and Italy should still always be beatable) so a lot comes down to the trips to Paris and London. Scotland don’t travel that well (not lately anyway!) but this is a Scotland squad filled with players who have won on French soil (albeit at club level) so Paris may not be so scary. As for England, who knows but this could well be the year the Scots end the Twickers hoodoo!
Head: Mid table mediocrity. Win against Ireland and Italy at home, lose in France, just miss out in a classic open running game versus Wales and a lack of composure in scoring position ultimately see us lost to England by a score. 4th / 3rd
Heart: Get off to a flyer against Wales, lose in France but pick up 3 more victories, including a gritty display at Twickers to records a long awaited victory to finish 1st or 2nd.
Arse: Lose badly against a buoyant Welsh side, struggle for composure in France, run Ireland close but lose and face an England side that suddenly comes into form at the right time. Sneak a win at home to Italy to avoid the wooden spoon. 5th.
Scotland v Wales (Murrayfield) – Sunday 8th February, 3pm.
France v Scotland (Stade France) – Saturday 14th February, 3pm
Scotland v Italy (Murrayfield) – Saturday 28th February, 3pm
Scotland v Ireland (Murrayfield) – Saturday 14th March, 5pm
England v Scotland (Twickenham) – Saturday 21st March, 3.30pm