Scotland Six Nations 2020: the Predictor’s view

By Graeme Acheson of Rugby4Cast

Let’s not beat around the bush. It could be a difficult year, but is it ever not? Scotland are much improved in recent times, but are still some way off the big three of England, Ireland and Wales when it comes to Six Nations success. Given the cycle of home and away matches Scotland will always struggle to win more than two matches in a year.

In one year they have England and France at home, with Wales and Ireland away; the next they have England and France away, and Wales and Ireland at home. Throw in an occasional loss to Italy and you can see why the Six Nations has been slim pickings for Scotland for many a year.

Rugby4Cast alternative rankings – Scotland are on a par with France, but some way off the other Home Nations side. 

2020 Predictions

So how does this year look? Well, our prediction Algorithm has this as the slightly easier of Scotland’s two-year cycles. Scotland are good enough to expect to beat Italy away, and France at home has become a bit of a banker for Scotland recently, with the Scots winning the last three home matches against the French. The Algorithm currently has Scotland to win this match by 5 points and win two matches overall.

The Algorithm’s predictions for Scotland’s Six Nations. For more information about how these are calculated, please see www.rugby4cast.com/data.

BEYOND THE NUMBERS: Personally, I am worried about the French match. Individually the French squad look brilliant. And with Shaun Edwards – who brought defensive nous and hard-headedness to Wales for more than a decade – in the coaching staff I feel that they could spring a long-awaited heist on the Six Nations. The Algorithm – which has long been proven wise against my own predictions – disagrees, giving them just a 4% chance of winning the title. 

From a Scottish perspective, given the match is the fourth of five, at least we will know more about the capabilities of this French squad when the match comes around.

A third win?

And the other matches? Well, this is also the year that England visit Murrayfield. Despite the fact that England are the strongest of the Six Nations sides (and have been for some time – see below for how team strength has fluctuated over time), the English rarely have won by much in Murrayfield.

Indeed in the 10 matches there have been in the Six Nations England have only won five of them, by an average margin of 5 points. Given the history of this match, and especially after the shenanigans of last year, Scotland will always have half a chance, and it is here that Scotland should look for their third win.

How Rugby4Cast’s Elo rankings have moved over time.

Ireland and Wales away are (likely) a bridge too far for Scotland at the moment – they have only won once in Dublin and Cardiff in Six Nations history (2010 Dublin and 2002 Cardiff) and given the rather heavy defeats that have been inflicted in recent years, I am not filled with optimism for these matches.

A fourth win? The Cliche of Momentum…

What Six Nations article would be complete without the oft-used variable of momentum. I would put forward that in Scotland’s case it is perhaps better described as an absence of desperation rather than a case of genuine momentum – should they win an early match, then the pressure of desperately scraping a final round win is avoided. 

From this perspective, the ordering of the fixtures is relatively kind. The winnable fixtures sandwiched between the difficult ones. The best-case scenario would clearly be a win in Dublin, but given the likelihood of that is low (16% according to the Algorithm), a solid performance and avoiding a hammering would be the next best thing. Something to build on heading into round 2. If the French do us a favour and beat England (conveniently ignoring the potential meaning this has for Scotland in round 4) then we can look to perhaps sneak another win against England at home and keep the Calcutta Cup for a third year (something that hasn’t happened since 1970-1972). 

Scotland would then be looking ahead to the prospect of two eminently winnable matches without the desperation of having them be ‘must-win’ matches. Faced with this, the Scottish players under Hastings/Russell (and let’s not get started on that right now…) would surely revert to the free-flowing rugby we have become used to in the good times, and comfortably beat the Italians away and France at home. We will enter the final weekend of the Six Nations on three wins and one loss. In this (dream) situation England and France are in a similar position having lost at least one match (to Scotland). Ireland and Wales will also almost certainly have lost to the English in Twickenham. You can see where this is going …

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve thrown logic, reason and The Algorithm out the window. It wasn’t where I was going when I started the article, believe me. But we now find ourselves in the situation below.

Hypothetically ridiculous view of the Six Nations table heading into the final weekend.

Admittedly, even this in this fanciful situation, Scotland would still not be the favourites for the title. Ireland visit Paris in round 5, which would be by no means guaranteed, but even if France win, England play Italy in the final weekend, and that is rarely anything other than the full 5 bonus point hammering. But, stranger things have happened. Look at Scotland in Twickenham last year.

Back to reality

Let’s be real. The above situation is very unlikely. The Algorithm gives Scotland just a 3% chance of winning the Six Nations and a 7% chance of second (see below for the full spectrum of possibilities). Realistically, the best Scotland can hope for is a fairly long shot at third, but a more grounded goal would be fourth, with two solid wins and no absolute hammerings. I’d take that if it was offered right now.

Rugby4Cast’s Algorithm’s view of the whole tournament and the respective chances each side has of finishing in each position.

Hopeless hope

But I’ve only gone and done it now. I’m once again fully invested in the dream. And it will make the comedown all the harder this weekend after Scotland received a 50 point drilling from the Irish.

For a more realistic take on the Six Nations and analysis where Graeme doesn’t completely lose all sense of reason, please visit www.rugby4cast.com. Predictions, histories, form guides will all be updated as the tournament progresses. Be sure to check for updates as the results come in.

Created using the combined powers of the Scottish Rugby Blog team.

36 comments on “Scotland Six Nations 2020: the Predictor’s view

  1. James on

    Good article.

    My prediction:
    Ireland – we play all the rugby, create loads of chances, convert one and lose to stifling Irish defence 🤯

    England – the English turn up expecting to win and the Murrayfield roar lifts the team to another Calcutta Cup win 🥳

    Italy – we turn up in Rome expecting to win a Parisse inspires the Italians to the win. We make a bucketload of mistakes. 🤬

    France – French team are riding high. We’ve been written off after the loss to Italy but the team are fired up and storm and storm to a big win. 🤩

    Wales – hope of a first win in Cardiff in nearly two decades is dashed by the Scottish in ability to play well outside Murrayfield. 😫

    Two wins and 4th/5th in the table and another tournament ends with lots of “if only…” lamentations.

    • TeamCam on

      Can’t see Italy beating us on today’s form… even wales look poor. That said, I’m sure I’ll revise this position after we’ve been ravaged by Ireland!

      • Grumpy on

        I thought we played very well, a lot of changes in the side , it is their first time out, a lot of opportunities left unanswered, Ireland looked average but we have just gone back to those dark days of white line fever.

    • Referendum on

      You got the first prediction right…id take the rest in reality but hope we somehow change our lack of conversion of chances. We only needed a quarter of them converted in reality…we did so well in many areas.

  2. Referendum on

    Love the stats and permutations. Our whole six nations looks ridiculously hopeful if we win today and gloomy beyond gloom if we lose. Here’s hoping we do the ultimately unscottish thing today and score a try early give nothing away early and win by more than a score to put us somewhere between Cloud 8 and 9….

  3. RuggersB on

    Wales looked like Wales…Italy looked worse than ive seen them for a while.
    Much better organized and tough Scotland side today…at least standing up to Ireland. Haining hugely impressive to me. Our entire front row looks better than last year.
    We will probably lose today…but a much better looking side..imo..just need to cut out a few mistakes and be a bit calmer near the try line.
    Hutchinson should go in at 12 2nd half.

  4. Not rocket science on

    Fraser Brown should not be playing. Cannot hit man at lineout ever, including WC 2015. Functioned while he was off pitch and back to being sh*t. If he’s clashed with Finn this absurd.

  5. Peter on

    Bring back Vern Cotter today!!!

    Is there nothing more imaginative on the line but drive into the opposition.

    Bring back Finn quickly.

    Bloody awful.

  6. Warks Scot on

    Stupid stupid mistakes cost us dear. At least some of the structures looked better. And a bonus point is better than nothing but at times so frustrating; Hoggy will be beating himself up, but he needs to get his head in the right place for next week.

  7. Neil on

    Im happy with that performance tbh, executing our attacking play will returning

    My MoM is steve Tandy.

    Surprised with Sutherland and Hainings performances, Hastings controlled the game pretty decently also.

    Anyway we have a defensive platform hopefully from now on at least.

  8. RuggersB on

    Hogg!!!……crikey what a fail today which that dropped try…That may have changed the eventual match outcome.
    What is wrong with our lineup throwing?…yikes!
    Positive was that we gave as good as we got….There was nothing between the sides in that match.
    Sutherland and Haining played excellent…imo
    Why did it take until that last moments of the match to play Hutchinson?..should have been on at halftime…imo

    Mistakes cost us that match…no doubt about it. The win was there for the taking…

    Tandy and the scrum coach made defense fixes in a couple of weeks that Taylor couldn’t make in years.

  9. Pks on

    Comments so far are the glass half empty type. Get a grip. This was a great effort with, yes, some daft penalties but not the rub of the green from the ref at ruck time. All played well, indeed, very well. Onwards and upward with this team – come on England!

  10. Scrummo on

    Keep Sutherland in that loosehead shirt. Let’s hope he can shift Schoeman at Edinburgh, too good to be second choice.

  11. Peter on

    I’m sorry but this was not a good performance. We had no idea what to do 30 yards from the Irish line. Ireland are trying to play to a new coach and were poor.
    England will be perfectly happy to have seen this game!

    • TeamCam on

      That was a good performance. We dominated the contact area, maul and scrum. We were let down by Raynaul’s wacky interpretations at the breakdown, which killed our momentum and relieved the pressure. That was the difference between the teams. Ireland know they were lucky to get the win today.

      • SlowWalk90 on

        I wouldn’t say it was a terrible performance, but we need to aspire to better. Like you say, the difference was in the breakdown. The were all over us in the tackle area and are very good at that aspect of the game. We continued to let our runners get exposed.

        We needed to get across the line in the closing minutes, but you just knew it wasn’t going to happen. If it was England/Ireland/Wales in that position at that time in the game, you know they are going to deliver.

        Someone put up a video collage of last seasons tries and it made us look like the Harlem Globetrotters. Nobodies doing video collages of Ireland’s tries I’d imagine but they’re all worth the same points. We need to learn to score ugly tries because the pretty ones are drying up fast.

    • RuggersB on

      Totally disagree. Thats the first time Ive watched a Scotland pack front up proper to an Irish team in Ireland many a year…and they had them on the rack at times.
      Ireland mostly played the systems they did under Schmitt. Farrell hasn’t changed much if anything I thought they looked more dangerous in attack than they have done for a while.
      Scotland for virtually the first time since GT took over looked like they had a good forward pack and looked far more effective as a defensive unit.
      The lineout needs sorted out however.
      England will not be perfectly happy….Id say they will be more aware that Scotland are improving defensively and that if some of their moves had been timed and executed a wee bit better they would have beaten an Ireland team that have a great home record.

  12. pragmatic optomist on

    Brilliant to see the Scottish pack fighting for every ball. It’s the kind of fight that was missing at the world cup. Our scrum probably edged it, but our line-out was under some pressure. Don’t agree with some of the comments about Browns throwing. He’s clearly a more powerful player than McInally and some of his tacking was awesome. Pleased to see Sutherland playing so well. With his injury record I thought he’d missed the boat. If he can stay fit, he’ll make the loose-head position his. The back row fight was a snarling match and thought Ireland were a bit lucky with one or two decisions. Could/possibly should have won, but a very good team effort with no silly knock-ons. Some of the penalties given were a bit 50-50 for me, with both teams handling on the deck in most of the rucks. Looking forward to another fight next week with England.

  13. Sam Laycock on

    In general tho, I’m really proud of the Team, should’ve said that first up. Commitment and attitude was right. We’re right in the tournament, a loosing BP away could be valuable. If we can win our home games and Italy then we could be in the mix on the final day and that would make a nice change.

  14. WeeAl on

    That was a good performance. Yes too many penalties, but a bit unlucky on some tbh. The pack played with real aggression and speed, some great work by Fagerson, Haining, Cummings and Watson. But Toolis is just too soft imo. Not much impact from the bench really. Backs played well too, Johnson was great but lacks pace – that’s the real problem, no really quick back to light things up (until DG is fit). I’m overall pretty proud of the boys for a very gritty performance. Hastings did well, and should keep the shirt.
    Not sure Hogg is really captain, he plays better as a soldier not an officer. Watson might be better placed….?

    • Referendum on

      That was the best Hogg has played for Scotland in a year or so. Consistently high standard of play throughout

  15. Busy Little Bee on

    Good performance. Had more of the game than on other occasions in the last 10 years when we beat Ireland. Sutherland and Fagerson’s shirts to lose now. Haining fine and no surprise to anyone who has watched him for Edinburgh this season. Hogg is dead stupid and a bad choice of captain though, will continue to say it.

    • RuggersB on

      Sutherland is a stick on for LH after that. There is no one else close to his ability.
      Dell was a liability when he came on.
      Fagerson was great too and easily our best TH.
      Hogg’s drop was truly an awful error at test level….he tarnished his credibility with it.

      • SlimJim on

        Nonsense. He could be in that position 1000 times and score 999 of them. It was a freak error. He had a good game, showed up in attack and defence and was clearly focussed on captaining well in spite of a ref with a pretty poor attitude to communicating with him at times. There’s a trend with refs at the moment which I think stems from them wanting their own Nigelesque highlight reel and I’m sick of it. Respect goes both ways and today Hogg was shown very little. I’m not saying Sexton was either, I didn’t pay much attention to that side.

      • Busy Little Bee on

        Hogg is dense and has an ego, really not compatible with being captain. It’s no surprise he makes a massive balls-up like that.

  16. CAVOK on

    The captain drops the ball when it’s easier to score. Townsend feels sorry for him. Sums up the whole debacle. Where was the discipline? The number of needless penalties cost us. The captain should have imposed himself. Captain and Hogg are two words that do not go together.

    • Referendum on

      The number of needless penalties is correct. Price offside and the two off the ball nudges which Ireland did buy for sure are three to start with…I disagree with the rest of what you say

  17. Stripe on

    The effort was there, and we could quite easily have won. Ultimately, though, our performance was like the proverbial curate’s egg – good in places.

    The good: the scrum (the props in particular), the improved defence, Johnson, Watson.

    The so-so: Hastings (did okay but didn’t shine), Jones (looked sharp enough in attack but off the pace defensively)

    The bad: the line-out, the penalty count (too many silly penalties), the turnovers at critical moments, Kinghorn’s difficulties with the high ball, Hogg dropping the ball in the act of touching down.

    The embarrassing: Hogg celebrating scoring a try when he must have known that it would be obvious to all that he’d guddled it. Shades of RWC 2015.

    • Not rocket science on

      Meh, in fairness I applaud that attempted recovery and would have loved it if the conversion had been taken. There’s something more legitimate in celebrating than faking injury for example.

  18. rugbyes on

    Many times, luck is also part of strength, so our current predictions are just guesswork. I hope I can wear the rugby jersey of my favorite team to witness the end result of this guess.

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