From Six Nations whitewash to (almost) the most successful World Cup side in the northern hemisphere – will the real Scotland please stand up?
The gif that keeps on giving
No, Greig Laidlaw’s not having a fit. This is the face of a man who has just been denied the chance to get to a World Cup semi-final by a dodgy refereeing decision. Channel the pain, Greig…
Scotland Captain Greig Laidlaw: ‘We’re not going to get het up against England’
“We’ll be calm and in control. That’s what we’ve got to be. That’s probably something that’s hurt us in the past, carrying too much emotion, too much expectation on the field, and we need to leave that in the team hotel.
“What you don’t want is to go in with clouded judgment. Especially the forwards, they can maybe get more het up than the decision makers, the half-backs, the gamebreakers. That’s a message we’re putting across to the players.”
Pundit’s preview: Andy Nicol
How good is this Scotland side?
I think what everyone wants to know after the World Cup, in which they came so close to beating Australia, is, ‘What is Scotland’s level?’ Was the Six Nations last year, where they lost every game, a stepping stone to a much better World Cup? Was that World Cup the pinnacle for Scotland, or was it just the start of something? I believe it’s more likely to be the latter.
I wouldn’t ordinarily pick out props because they’re not the most exciting, but they give so much stability for the rest of the team. In that regard, WP Nel has come in for the World Cup and been excellent for Scotland. He’s locked out the scrum, but has also been very effective with ball carrying in the loose.
In the backs, the one I’m looking forward to seeing – although there is an injury doubt – is Mark Bennett. He goes against the grain of a big, strong modern outside centre. He’s strong, but he’s not big! He’s fast, and that gives us an attacking threat now at 13, something we haven’t had for a while.
The two uncapped forwards, Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland: these are good prospects. Traditionally we haven’t produced a lot of props over the years, and these two are highly rated. They’re definitely the future: they’re not going to replace the first picks yet, but having always struggled with depth, it’s good to see the bench as strong as it is.
There’s absolutely nothing more than England at home. It’s a huge game in any year: it’s the longest running international fixture in the world, but given everything that’s gone on with England, this year it is massive.
England’s problem has never been a lack of talent; it’s been a lack of inspiration. My concern from a Scottish perspective is that it looks like Eddie Jones is going to say to his players, ‘Just go out there and play.’ And when England did that in the last game of the Six Nations last year, they were outstanding.
Who is going to win the Six Nations?
I see a settled squad in Wales. They have to beat England at Twickenham in the Six Nations, but as we saw in the World Cup they have no issue with that. They’ve got a number of their top players returning from injury, and they’re probably the most settled side. That just shades it for me.