I want to start by congratulating England- with their full strength side out yesterday, they finally showed what great rugby they can play and are deserving Six Nations champions.
Many had Scotland down to make history and beat England at Twickenham- I think that could have happened if both teams performed as they have in previous weeks. Sadly, Scotland took a good few steps back whilst England really turned up the heat. I couldn’t imagine many teams winning that one today..
Three tries- the most England have conceded in a game this Six Nations. Not bad for a make-shift Scotland team. The last time England conceded three tries was November 2016 and it was to Fiji.
It also showed Scotland that despite the obvious improvement, the team has a long way to go yet.
Moving forward, it was a good wake up call
For a while we have been talking of an improved Scotland, the best in a generation. We didn’t see that yesterday. Forget the torrid injuries, there were still 21 missed tackles and 44 errors. John Barclay was spot on in his post-match interview- Scotland were useless. That said, the front line players have shown what they’re capable of- we just need more back up.
An opportunity for young guns?
I don’t think it’ll happen, but Vern could help Gregor a lot here by blooding a few more players- Scotland statistically can’t come last in Six Nations and they can’t win it. With wins over Ireland and Wales, why not cut their loses and blood some new guys? It has already been a successful campaign on the whole – Scotland have shown they have a good team, just perhaps not the depth. It’s unlikely, but I’d be happy to see some new faces for the good of the team going forward- guys like Damien Hoyland and maybe Blair Kinghorn. Give them a taste for the level they need to be at to get selected.
The SRU are doing good things- but we need more
There is often so much criticism for the governing body, but in fairness, Dodson and Co are doing a job with Scottish rugby. Glasgow Warriors have been going well in the Pro12 in recent years and are now having an impact in Europe (although I fear what injuries will have done to their silverware hopes) and ambition has been shown with a new ground and head coach for Edinburgh. However, to keep up it’s clear- Scotland need more players, more teams.
The bench were always going to make a difference in Twickenham. Look at Wales in a similar situation against England in RWC2015- England may have been a different beast back then, but Wales were down their first-choice scrum half and centres, had a scrum half on the wing and still beat England. The difference in how the sides fronted up in those circumstances is stark.
With another professional club team, or ideally, two, Scotland could hope to develop the kind of depth we see in the Welsh and Irish squads. The big risk of course is that it dilutes the talent pool and club rugby falls on the way side. A balance needs to be struck to ensure a strong Scotland team and strong club teams to support the development of Scottish rugby on the whole.
Scotland need more players at the top level. The loss of Stuart Hogg this weekend was glaring.
The 2017 Championship and beyond
Sadly, Glasgow Warriors’ season could well be killed off by this and Italy could be a real challenge for Scotland, too. Already down a first-choice front row, number eight, scrum-half and kicker, Scotland have now lost their back-line cover too as Mark Bennett is ruled out, with Stuart Hogg, Ryan Wilson and Tommy Seymour undergoing concussion protocols. Then you have Huw Jones and Finn Russell potentially out with knee injuries and Richie Gray with a hamstring issue. Options are looking very light on the ground for Vern Cotter.
Scotland are getting more quality players emerging year on year, who are making an impact for their teams. They’re a relatively young and inexperienced squad. Fraser Brown’s yellow card at Twickenham epitomised where they’re at in that sense.
Imagine when they can convert that adrenaline into positive energy.
Any comments are appreciated. Follow me on Twitter or sign up to my mailing list, here.
The Scribbler, 12th March 2017
NOW ON FACEBOOK – The Rugby Scribbler