Vern Cotter’s Final Six Nations Will Be One to Remember

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Scotland has their strongest team in a long time in preparation for Vern Cotter’s final Six Nations with the Thistle.

In his three years as head coach of the Scottish national team, Vern Cotter has finally put together a worthy Six Nations Squad. This years team features the return of Matt Scott and Duncan Taylor. In June Vern Cotter will be departing the Scots for the head coaching job at Montpellier. Following his departure, native Scot and head coach of Glasgow, Gregor Townsend, will be come the new lead for Scotland.

Matt Scott has been making a name for himself since Edinburgh last year for Gloucester. The inside-centre in his first season in the Aviva Premiership is tied for second in tries. With 8 tries to his name, he is only one score away from Wasps’ Christian Wade. His return to Inside centre will assist an already dominant Scotland back line. Duncan Taylor will also be making his return after missing the fall test series from injury suffered during Scotland’s summer series in Japan. These players will add great depth to a star studded back line. Matt Scott will find himself in fine company of try scorers with the likes of Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg. All three of those players together have the potential to open up the usual low scoring affair of the Six Nations.

The list of players for the Six Nations tournament are not all familiar though as two forwards will make test match debut this weekend. Cornell Du Preez and Simon Berghan, both of Edinburgh, will be making their test series debuts for Scotland. The New Zealand born prop Berghan qualifies for Scotland through his grandfather.

W. P. Nel to miss another test season to injury.

In his return from a previous multiple month injury, W. P. Nel only lasted 27 minutes before he was sidelined yet again. In Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup match against the Harlequins, W. P. Nel made his return to the pitch after many months on the sideline with a neck injury.

His injury has been a continuation of injury after injury, that has kept him largely sidelined since the summer test series. A representative from Scotland Rugby confirmed on January 14th that, “An MRI scan on Wednesday at Spire Murrayfield Hospital revealed that the tighthead prop damaged an intervertebral disc in his neck during a significant collision in his club’s European Challenge Cup win over Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.” talking rugby union. The loss of Nel is a big blow as the front row will need as much power and experience on the front row as can be found in their first match against Ireland. His injury will make Scotland’s tournament more difficult, but not impossible, as they have frequently had to fill the void left by his injury.

Scotland plan to pressure Connor Murray as much as possible.

In Glasgow’s match against Munster on January 14th as part of the European Champions cup, controversy was born. Munster’s Connor Murray accused Glasgow of targeting him and needlessly putting him at risk for injury. “I’m properly p***ed off about that,”(Sky Sports) Murray said the following Monday. “”I don’t see any benefit in charging down someone’s standing leg, I only see it as a danger or as a potential to get injured.”

Greig Laidlaw said on the 31st that “Glasgow did everything within the rules of the game. As a nine you are always going to get teams putting pressure on you. In that game, Glasgow got a charge down on him but they were trying to get the ball back – they weren’t trying to deliberately injure the player.”(Sky Sports) He also went on to say that “Will we be putting pressure on him? For sure we will. He’s not going to come to Murrayfield and get an armchair ride. We need to do that to every Irish player but we can expect the same back, I’m sure.”

Ireland will also suffer from Johnny Sexton’s calf injury that has ruled him out of the opener against Scotland.

It is currently unclear how long Sexton will be off the pitch with the injury, but it is not likely to be long as he was participating in some light practice earlier in the week. Sexton’s replacement at fly half will still be a formidable presence for Ireland though. Paddy Jackson of Ulster will be filling in for Sexton in their opening match. Just because he was not the first choice, do not think Paddy cannot get the job done. In Ireland’s legendary win during the South African tour, Paddy Jackson was 7 for 8 and was responsible for 16 of Ireland’s 26 points.

This Six Nations is one of the most difficult to call in recent years.

Eddie Jones’ England were undefeated in 2016. Ireland broke the All Blacks win streak. Scotland has been 5 for six since last years Six Nations and has a back line to die for. France showed significant improvement during the fall internationals. Wales are always and will always be capable of anything. All these pieces together make this year’s Six Nations one of the most competitive and exciting in recent memory. Only time will tell who will win and who will wash out.

 

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