Given the playing resources at Scotland’s disposal during this Six Nations, Gregor Townsend’s team have over-achieved by managing one win at home to Italy and one draw on the road against England, as well as being competitive against Ireland and Wales.
However, being overrun so comprehensively in the first half that the opposition switch off and you are able to sneak back into the contest after the break – as happened to varying degrees against France, Wales and England – is not going to be an effective long term strategy. ‘Rope-a-dope’ maybe worked for Muhammad Ali, but this is international rugby.
The team’s unwavering commitment to ‘Toony-ball’ is admirable, and it probably is the tactical approach which gives Scotland the best chance of stealing games – but the mind-set needs to be more pragmatic. The big difference between Scotland and the other Home Nations is not how effective they are when they are playing well and things are going their way, it is how ineffective they are when the tide is against them. They need to get better at hanging in there.
France are a shambles, and the biggest disappointment of Scotland’s campaign is that they allowed Les Bleus to look competent in Paris in round three.
With everybody fit, Darcy Graham has to start for Scotland on the wing.
Warren Gatland is a tactical and motivational genius who is head and shoulders above any other coach in world rugby at the moment.
Ireland peaked 12 months too early and now need to start thinking seriously about sending the old guard out to pasture so that fresh blood can reinvigorate the team for the World Cup.
England are in a good place right now technically, and are genuine World Cup contenders, but Eddie Jones needs to get to the bottom of the psychological frailty which allowed them to go from utterly dominant against a shell-shocked Scotland after half an hour to shipping 38 unanswered points inside the space of 42 minutes, before George Ford’s late score saved their blushes.
Italy might now have lost 21 matches on the bounce in the Six Nations but they were competitive in four out of five games in this campaign. There has to be a worst team in the league and the suggestion that the Azzurri contaminate the competition by continually struggling carries more than a whiff of elitism. Italy face huge financial and structural challenges, and there is no magic wand, but they are not the basket-case some would have us believe. We should be looking at ways of expanding the championship to include the likes of Georgia, rather than trying to slim it down.
Scotland’s record of two wins, one draw and 12 losses from 15 matches in total in the three Six Nations competitions (Men’s, Women’s and Men’s U20s) leaves them bottom of the cumulative league table.