Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Long Term Choices

Pete Horne - pic © Al Ross
Pete Horne - pic © Al Ross

The champagne has almost stopped flowing and the destination of this year’s Six Nations title is sealed, after Scotland’s 29-18 win over France on Sunday afternoon.

What, though, can we learn for the long-term about the manner in which Vern Cotter’s men eased France out of the latter stages of the game?

Scotland fans all know Stuart Hogg is a fabulous operator at full-back, and he’s announced as much to the championship this year and last, and we’ve waxed lyrical about the talismanic skipper Laidlaw’s influence from scrum-half.

But what of the other leaders in the Scotland side?

The set-piece has been dominant throughout, and put the French to the sword time, and time again on Sunday. Ross Ford has enjoyed a breath of fresh air in the test arena under Cotter – no longer with the captaincy to worry about, his lineout throwing has been much better and the powerhouse Borderer has formed part of a formidable front-row trio.

His place in the first-choice XV is assured for now, but Stuart McInally probably offers more around the field and is developing into a really classy hooker. He will take over in the long-term, and impressed off the bench for the final quarter hour on Sunday.

Jonny Gray was once more superb – the 22-year-old never seems to have a bad game and he was a defensive colossus for the Scots, but his brother Richie also joined him in making nine tackles and caught the eye with some barnstorming carries. He will be a miss against Ireland.

Perhaps the unsung heroes of the weekend win, though, were in the back-row. Josh Strauss was immense with ball in hand, making yards seemingly at will against, admittedly poor French fringe defence.

John Hardie has been one of Scotland’s stand-out players since his debut, and is surely already a Lions contender, but John Barclay is to the manor reborn in Test rugby. The Scarlets man was superb once more on the blindside, and has shown Cotter and his staff why he perhaps should’ve beaten Al Strokosch to the final back-row spot for RWC 2015.

For me, the last word can go to only one man after the three-tries-to-two win.

When Finn Russell went down, there were gasps all round the stadium, and even more when Peter Horne took the place of his fellow Glasgow Warrior – remember Italy in 2015?

Former Howe of Fife man Horne produced easily his best Scotland performance as he controlled the match superbly from stand-off, and played a big part in Hogg’s try, while looking assured in defence.

It was a display that restored faith from fans and helped end a decade of near-misses against Les Bleus. The biggest question now is, will he stay if Russell is fit to face Ireland?

1 Response

  1. This weekend was possibly the biggest psychological hurdle cleared for a generation. I sat in the East Stand right in line as Visser finished a superb piece of play from Richie Gray then Nel then Laidlaw and finally Hogg. It was glorious. Yet as two young girls gleefully danced a jig of delight beside us as if we had won, I turned to my friend for the day and said “They’re too young to remember how these matches usually turn out”. We were too scarred to think we were home and dry. Only as the 77th minute ticked by were we assured of victory. It was a real line in the sand. Contrary to those after The Welsh match who said the campaign is dead we have more than hope, we have ended the French dominance and that psychologically means when in a similar place in the future we have the knowledge not the hope that Scotland can win and quite possibly will win.

    People talk of so many things from Saturday. But the biggest thing for me was the lack of mistake compounding mistake like so often happens. When something went wrong we reset and made sure that error didn’t lead to the crisis. That is huge. Cotter will never get too excited but his way of never condemning nor praising too much looks to be gaining results.

    You mention Horne from Italy last year. But that kick to touch was followed by 4 other ridiculous errors which meant Scotland fell apart. We would probably be talking about a glimmer of light that Scotland had among a campaign of flattering to deceive. Horne if I remember had a decent game up until that poor play and with the way it turned out is all that is remembered.

    I thought the referee on Saturday had a decent game but of course The French may disagree but as is the victors want they very rarely give the opposition nor the ref a passing glimpse. This is Scotland’s position for all too rare an occasion. It may now be something they should get used too.

    Whatever happens on Saturday, I believe there is enough to think we’re past the point of return to competing again. Win in Ireland and well that would be unthinkable even 2 weeks ago. One thing for sure it’ll be some game. Tries will rain down mark my words…

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion