Your faithful team of Scottish Rugby Blog pundits sat at a virtual round table, quaffed mead, gnawed meat from the bone, kicked the dogs and generally caroused their way through the highs and lows of this years Six Nations. Then Al threatened to get Excalibur out and everyone went back to their little corners. Camelot is a silly place…
1) There were a lot of comments made about the quality of rugby, yet we’ve seen a couple of cracking games in terms of entertainment. 6 Nations 2010 – Good or Guff?
RB: A mixed bag. The trend seems to be “great drama” is okay which means “not great rugby”.
AK: The Welsh victory over Scotland was great entertainment albeit painful, and the rugby played by France in particular, and Ireland and Scotland in patches, was a joy.
AD: The Wales v. Scotland game was one of the best rugby games I have ever seen and France had some flourishes of brilliance, but it seems any fixture involving England or Italy turned into a dour, plodding mess.
AK: The Italy v England game made my eyes bleed.
GH: Every game is not going to be a showcase of what Rugby can be. It was hardly free flowing throughout but in terms of drama, as the others said, it was hard to beat.
AD: The BBC need to shake up their format, too; when the analysis is on and you are constantly flicking over to Sky to watch the Super 14 highlights and James Gemmell’s terrible chat, you know something is wrong!
2) What about Scotland – how do you classify a tournament in which we narrowly avoided the Wooden Spoon (again), but if you think about it were about ten-fifteen minutes of concentration away from a Triple Crown?
AK: Like Pete Docherty we suffer from chronic white line fever. However it feels very much like the tide is, finally, turning and decision making is improving. A qualified success is probably a fair assessment.
RB: Highest tackle completion and ruck clearances point to a resurgent back row, probably the most encouraging feature. Bottom of the try scoring table, same old same old.
AD: As a coach Andy Robinson loves off-loads; he works on it in every session, and the forwards in particular used those skills brilliantly. If only our backline could have played with the same continuity. The lack of tries is worrying , and the forwards won’t bash through France and England in the WC for 80 mins. This being said, we cornered the market for sheer entertainment/stroke inducing action. We were pretty good value.
GH: It’s more of success when you consider our main problem was finishing and we lost Thom Evans and Rory Lamont so early in the tournament. If both pairs of brothers were available for selection throughout, the team would have looked a lot more complete. As it was, Scotland were a team that did certain things incredibly well but so far it’s promising and the full package will come.
3) Judging by performances in this seasons 6 Nations which players look set to run the show in the coming years, replacing the likes of an ageing BOD or a seemingly spent J. Wilkinson?
AK: What, you mean Wilkinson is past his best? I only watch the BBC and I’m sure I saw a documentary on how he walked across the channel to sit on the bench of the French game and then fed 25,000 hungry fans with nothing but 3 baguettes and a couple of fish! You’ve really got to look at the French for the young talent which is starting to filter through to the top level.
GH: Morgan Parra is an absolute joy to watch and when you consider how young he is, he’s going to be around for a long time, surrounded by an excellent team.
AD: Parra is one of the best players in the tournament already and he will only improve. Having played against him and Danny Care (possibly the two best players I have had the dis-/pleasure of facing with the exception of Australia’s Pocock) it is clear to see Danny has a lot of work to do. Glad to see Richie ‘Three Tall’ Gray get some game time, and Beattie is still very young.
GH: If Sexton can sort out his kicking, his ability in attack will add another dimension to Ireland’s play.
RB: Despite a poor showing against us, Sexton will bounce back. Warburton seems to have caused a stir in the Valleys.
Canovosio has a good future if Mallet would start him. The French team look to be building to something. Foden’s brief cameo might give England hope if they could sort their approach out.
4) And who stood out for you in a Scotland shirt?
RB: Most of the (starting) pack.
AK: The three B’s were outstanding – Beattie Snr must have been awful proud! For sheer lazarusness Parks gets it for me. Villified by fans of all teams including his own he showed just how the kicking game can be used as an attacking force and showed great bottle. Buy that man a drink.
RB: But take away his car keys first. I don’t think “lazarusness” is a word, but I agree.
AD: While I will happily pile on Dan Park’s rickety bandwagon, Kelly Brown gets a nod from me. If he hadn’t done all the horrible graft Barclay wouldn’t have had his shackles removed, and Beattie wouldn’t have secured so much ball from his impressive breaks. Scott Lawson stood out for entirely different reasons…
GH: Three B’s goes without saying. It’s a shame they won’t all stick together for club, as well as country next year. Barclay deserved the MotM against Ireland without a doubt. Sean Lamont seemed to slow down in the last couple of games but he looked a real threat at the start of the tournament. If Scotland can add a bit more explosiveness at 11, 13 and 15 teams won’t be able to focus in on him quite as much and he’ll be able to take control a bit more.
5) With the confidence an in-form stand off gave Scotland, what happens to Scotland if Parks gets a career ending injury tomorrow?
RB: Draft Hugo? The kick up the arse of going from unassailable first choice to “we love Dan” will probably do World Class Phil good. He looked pretty sharp for Edinburgh last week.
AK: Panic? Godman might yet come good but he may now be damaged goods – does he have Parko’s bottle to come back? Hugo did well for the A squad and has played 10 for Stade so I agree with Rory that he may be an option.
GH: If Southwell had action at 10 week in, week out, he might be the best contingency plan. Scotland have a number of 10’s who “could be” in Rory Hutton, Alex and David Blair and Ruaridh Jackson. None of them fill me with unshakeable confidence. Duncan Weir is promising and it will be interesting to see if he can leapfrog Jackson in the SRU’s eyes. I’ll always have a soft spot for Colin Gregor and hope he gets an opportunity for Glasgow to stake his claim once Parks leaves. At the moment he seems to only be used to mop up once Jackson has had a disaster. He’d certainly offer something different. As for Phil Godman – I’m worried he might be a lost cause.
AD: You guys really are big fans of Shuggie, aren’t you?! Effectively Jackson isn’t ready yet and Godman’s morale must be lower that Jonny Sexton’s conversion rate. We have a dearth of talent, don’t we? The persisting rumour is that Robbo is looking for viable foreign options. Is Ryan Lamb still eligible?!
RB: He’s played for England A I think so is out. I wonder if Matthew Tait’s little brother can play 10? I’m a big fan of Gregor too (Colin I mean, sorry Gregor) I’d like to see him at full back like Foden where he gets more time to pick his lines.
6) If the Lions tour was next week – which Scots would make the team?
RB: Barclay for sure.
AK: I think Rory is being very modest. Both Brown and Beattie would go on tour, as would Euan Murray (as long as we don’t play Sundays), Al Kellock and Ross Ford. Not so sure about the backs though. Parks as a backup at a push – I love the guy but doesn’t really fit the Lions ‘brand’ of rugby.
GH: Cusiter and Blair are each other’s worst enemies, if one of them could own the number 9 shirt, and either of them played like they did against Ireland they’d have to go on tour. Any of the 3B’s and Murray would have a right to feel disappointed if they didn’t make the squad. While Lamont, Parks and Kellock would be keeping their ears wide open on selection day.
AD: The entire back-row would definitely make the cut, but I’m afraid that would be it. Kidney would almost certainly be head coach, and I imagine he would look at our back options and scoff. Saying that, last time a derided Scottish 10 lined up against Giteau we managed to spook him.
RB: It’s a question of options. Sure we like our guys and they play well for each other, but look at the other choices available in each position and there are only a few areas where we would be definite of a selection. Still, it would be great if Scottish coach Robbo got to go on tour as a token Englishman (an inverse Geech) in a Celt-dominated party.
7) Do we have the ability, off the back of the Irish win, English draw and a close game against Wales, to record 2 victories against Argentina in the summer tour in June (plus the recently announced game v Japan)
AD: I’d like to think so. We have the ability to take Argentina’s strengths away, and if we keep Chunk out the steakhouse long enough we could claim a highly-rated scrummaging scalp. It might not be pretty, though.
AK: Hell yeah. I very much believe we are two international sides at the same point on the curve but going in different directions – our star is (hopefully) on the rise.
GH: I think we do, Scotland are building something and I trust Andy Robinson to continue what he started during the 6 nations.
8 ) Crystal Ball – on the basis of this 6 Nations how are Scotland shaping up for the World Cup in 18 months time?
GH: I really started to feel after the 6 Nations like this was the start of something. Scotland are built to keep games low scoring and with a couple of finishers we could be a real threat. But that might be just typical blind Scottish optimism. There’s no reason we can’t win our group. Feel free to remind me of this after we bravely beat England but can’t qualify due to a loss against Georgia.
AK: Early days and still very much a work in progress. Getting plenty of games in is vital to the teams development, continue to learn to play with each other and the more match practice the more their decision making at the test level will improve. Can only hope a couple of the young backs push the senior players to create a real depth of squad come the World Cup.
AD: Al is right, depth is the issue. We are more than capable of beating Georgia, England and even France on our day but we need to be able to come through those games able to field a competitive XV in all positions. England will be throwing money at it, Argentina v Scotland is always close and the world is noticing that France are quickly becoming a juggernaut, so the arrival of a jinking hulk of a centre and a try-machine winger would be great, cheers, lads.
RB: I’ll see what I can do. Of course if we beat England and the Argies (and Georgia) and the French upset NZ in the group stages (ref W. Barnes, anyone?) things could be very different. Tickets are on sale this month, I think…