Learn from the past, but don’t dwell there

We need to talk about last October.

Yes, we were robbed. But that’s in the past. As fans, we should really move on. With a group of players this exciting it is the future we should look to, not the past.

That doesn’t mean the team and the crowd can’t channel the emotion left over from last October into the sort of passion required to sculpt a performance on Saturday at BT Murrayfield. There’s no point in getting carried away – especially as the chief villains of that particular piece were not Australia themselves.

Neither should we go on about Craig Joubert – after all we’ve got John Lacey refereeing on Saturday with the potential for all manner of injustice to appear. Focusing on perceived injustices is something that has been refreshingly absent from Vern Cotter’s reign as Scotland have improved genuine chances to win games, so let’s keep it that way.

But if the team and the crowd can harness that emotion to get into the game early then it could be a positive. It should be used as a way to harness the atmosphere of that World Cup, and perhaps skip over the less impressive Six Nations and Japanese tour that took place afterwards.

We could also look to the more recent future for inspiration.

With their victory against the All Blacks in Chicago sending a wake-up call to the world (of the good sort, sorry Mr Trump), Ireland have given teams like Scotland that traditionally struggle against the Big Three some hope. The win itself is not the point to take, it’s the way they did it: defensive aggression, astute tactics, clinically taking their chances and keeping the errors to a minimum. Yes they slowed the game down a bit to dilute the effectiveness of All Black fitness, but it’s not like they didn’t play any rugby.

World rugby has moved on, and there is increasingly less room for the 9-8 scrap in the rain type of upset that we saw against the Wallabies at Murrayfield in 2009. If you’re going to do it, you have to do it like Japan did against South Africa in the World Cup; win properly, not accidentally.

Yes, the big teams may need to have an off day, but for Scotland to be respected at the level we want they need to be a team who capitalise on that – really capitalise on it when it happens. To be taken seriously in any sense – Six Nations, Lions selection, whatever – Greig Laidlaw(/Duncan Hodge/Chris Paterson/ etc) hauling the team over the line with pinpoint kicking and a bad day at the office for the opposition’s kicker is no longer going to cut it.

Vern Cotter’s team are quite well suited to face this Wallaby side who are undeniably talented, but still throw plenty of loose passes. Mark Bennett and Finn Russell capitalised during the World Cup and concentration in defence is the key, both to unleash counter attackers like Bennett, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg and also to stop the Wallaby strike runners.

Without wanting it to seem like a damage limitation exercise – it doesn’t have to be that way – if they don’t defend cleverly then Scotland could be on the receiving end of a hiding like Australia dished out to Wales last weekend. With clean ball to play with, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau could be truly terrifying to supporters in navy blue.

The pack have a huge role to play too, and whether John Hardie, John Barclay or perhaps Hamish Watson is selected at 7, the openside will be charged with disrupting the Australian ability to get the ball away smoothly at the breakdown.

A lot also rests on the shoulders of whoever Cotter picks at tighthead – likely to be Zander Fagerson – and whoever runs the lineout – most likely Jonny Gray – as the Australians rely on clean set piece ball to unleash their attacking moves so Scotland will need to disrupt (legally) as much as possible.

No one really gave Scotland a chance before that World Cup semi and the fight they showed in that game did a lot to change minds, before the Six Nations this year perhaps reset them back to the tag of serial under-performers against better teams. Let’s face it, France and Italy were both pretty poor. A resurgent Georgian team who can target the Scottish scrum, and an Argentinian side who dispatched Japan in comfort also await Scotland this autumn. With ranking points on the line, a strong start is crucial to maintain confidence.

So come on Scotland, it’s time to show us what you are really made of.


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5 comments on “Learn from the past, but don’t dwell there

  1. Frazer on

    Great article, although I must admit that given the raft of injury worries in the props that I’m not at all confident in a win against the Aussies.

    I fear that they will dominate the set piece and breakdown, and unless miracles have been worked they will also dominate the restart. Yes our backs have the ability to break the line and trouble the opposition try line but given our front row issues and Australia’s excellent flankers I foresee a tough day at the office for our boys.

  2. Gladfop on

    Both teams want to prove something – Scotland wants to show, by beating the Wallabies on Saturday, that that RWC game should have been theirs. And the Aussies want to show that they don’t need a last-minute ref decision to win. Only one of them will turn out to be right. Could be Scotland if it’s wet.

  3. Not rocket science on

    We should dwell – but in the sense you describe! The crowd and players should holler for every decision made by referee or linesman or TMO, whoever is captain must stand up and be reasonable and firm (Gray has the height for the role, Pyrgos the personality), and how the Australians should be heckled at all times bar kicking. In short we should make it a real home game rather than a dour Murrayfield affair. Think of the Irish support in Chicago and tell me that didn’t play a role

    • Martin on

      Beyond that I think we need to be a bit nastier in the dark arts Johnny Gray has incredible work rate in both attack and defence, but I want to see him (and his brother be nasty) I want to see them smashing players and leaving a little bit on them (staying on the right side of the laws of course !). If we can disrupt them I am convinced that we can slow the breakdown and force turnovers and errors. If that happens – call it bias or optimism, but I think our backline can be just as destructive as theirs in taking advantage, but we need Laidlaw giving quick ball and sniping (like he did against Argentina) so that Russell can stay flat to the line. All of this I think depends on how hard and nasty we are up front – but you are right, a bit of rain and an intimidating atmosphere is a key catalyst for all these cogs to start turning

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