Scotland have not won a Six Nations championship since 1999, when the tournament was still known as the Five Nations. Following an impressive World Cup could this be the year that Scotland finally break the pattern?
Reasons Why Scotland Could Win the Six Nations
World Cup Confidence
Scotland came within a minute of beating Australia, pulling off one of the greatest shocks in Rugby World Cup history and reaching the semi final. However, a controversial decision by Craig Joubert to award the Wallabies a last minute match winning penalty foiled their attempt. Despite this, Scotland came the closest of any Six Nations teams to preventing an all Southern Hemisphere semi final line up. The confindence that this will have given Scotland cannot be underestimated and it may prove the difference between winning and losing the closest of games in the Six Nations.
Other Teams in Transition
The first Six Nations after a World Cup is always fascinating to discover which teams have forgotten a disappointing campaign or built on a successful one. Often teams have new coaches and new players. This year is no different as two of the normal contenders, England and France, are both in transition and recovering from disappointing World Cup campaigns. The new England coach, Eddie Jones, has made 11 changes to his squad and so it will be a challenge for the team to gel in time for the championship. Scotland play England first at Murrayfield and this is a golden opportunity for Scotland to stun the auld enemy and build momentum which is always hugely important in a Six Nations campaign.
Success of Glasgow
Last season’s Guiness Pro12 winners understandably provide the majority of the Scotland team. In fact, 16 of Vern Cotter’s 35 man squad come from the Warriors. This means that there are already inbuilt combinations and understandings within the squad such as the probable 10, 12, 13 axis of Finn Russell, Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett (provided they remain fit). It also ensures that Cotter is building a squad saturated with the ability and belief to win, a trait that Scotland has sometimes lacked in recent times.
An Exciting Backline
There is a plethora of talent emerging in the Scotland backline; Duncan Taylor, Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar are developing into formidable centres, Finn Russell is becoming a world class fly half, there is strength in depth in the back three with Sean Maitland, Stuart Hogg, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour, among others, proving again and again that they can both create and finish tries. This creativity is controlled ably by the captain Greig Laidlaw at scrum half who was one of the nominees for the prodigious Player of the Year award. If Scotland can harness this creativity then they should have the ability to score multiple tries each game.
For the first time since the peak of Euan Murray’s career, Scotland have a genuinely world class tighthead prop who can cause the opposition problems at the scrum. Nel is the increasingly important cornerstone of the Scottish pack who must be able to execute a robust set piece providing quick ball for the backs to use. A converted Springbok, Nel often showcases the South African love for powerful collisions, also making him a dynamic ball
In conclusion, Scotland perhaps have the best chance of winning the Six Nations since its inception in 2000. The emergence of a clinical back line has coincided with WP Nel completing his three year residency enabling him to play for Scotland. This has given them a solid spine and the confidence to win games that in years gone by they may have lost.