I will still get up all excited next Saturday morning/afternoon to see what the day’s rugby brings, but sadly I fear for Scotland it may be more of the same unless they can conjure some sort of direction in midfield. I have often praised World Class Phil but I think it was fairly clear today that a fair amount of work would need to be done for the nickname to be anything other than ironic. The pack was solid in defence and I thought up against some truly world class operators in Dusautoir and Harinordoquy (or Harrydonkey as jiffy seemed to call him) the Killer B back row (Beattie in particular) all acquitted themselves pretty well. Sean Lamont seems to have rediscovered his drive at Llanelli and looked back to the player we saw in 2006. Sadly there was no repeat of that result this time but at least he had several great breaks and a try-saving tackle. Anyone who caught his little outburst as the steadicam moved around the Scotland players at the end will have heard what losing the game meant to him. There is heart in this team, but then we never really doubted that.
What Scotland lacked today was any sort of posession, territory or platform. If the lineout is not working very well then kicking (poorly) to touch will not help. I thought Richie Gray did not look out of his depth at this level when he came on and might be worth more of a shot next week. Al Kellock threw himself about as usual but big Nathan was a bit quieter than usual. The lineout throwing was poor again.
The less said about the scrum the better but there is no doubt that Euan Murray was missed, and that without Chunk’s extra bulk along from him Moray Low struggled against a canny French pack. Would we have won the game if Murray had played? I doubt it, but a try in the last 20 when Scotland started to make breaks and they would have only been 2 points down with Mossy still on the field and sitting on a 100% kicking record, and the subdued home crowd undoubtedly would have woken up. Certainly there would have been less time wasted messing about in scrums, but really France were too good at retaining posession, and too good also at pinching ours. Their half-backs were not perfect but they made sure the game went on where they wanted it to – Scotland’s half – and from there the game was only going one way.