10 reasons for Scottish rugby fans to be cheerful
Scotland’s 2015 Six Nations came crashing to an unsavoury finish on Saturday as a ruthless and hungry Ireland side ran out 40-10 winners.
The result was not only the heaviest defeat of Vern Cotter’s reign and a sixth consecutive Murrayfield defeat in the tournament, but it handed Scotland the wooden spoon and a whitewash to go with it.
It would be all too easy to trawl through the vast array of gloomy statistics, but there remain several reasons to believe that Cotter’s team are still on the right track.
1. Try-scoring problems are officially a thing of the past
The fundamental criticism aimed at Scotland for years was a frightening absence of attacking intent and an inability to cross the whitewash. The Scotland team of 2015 may continue to give away cheap penalties and collapse defensively, but going forward they represent a real threat and scored tries in every match of this year’s Six Nations.
2. A youthful and promising squad
Youth amounts to inexperience in international rugby and unfortunately for Scotland, this showed all too often during the campaign. However, the likes of Stuart Hogg (22), Mark Bennett (22), Jonny Gray (21) and Finn Russell (22) all have huge potential and plenty of years ahead of them to atone for the mishaps of 2015.
3. The potential of the Scottish backs
Scotland’s backs were brilliant at times and will only improve. The fact that the core of the Scots’ backline is based at Glasgow Warriors (Russell, Alex Dunbar, Bennett, Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Sean Maitland) suggests that the fluidity they display together at club level should soon show on the international stage.
4. Stuart Hogg
The British and Irish Lions full-back had a sensational tournament despite the poor results. Electric in attack and solid in defence, the 22-year-old is showing the potential to become one of the best number 15s in circulation. Every side needs its superstar and Scotland have found theirs in Hogg.
5. The Vern Cotter effect
The Scotland job is not as simple as ‘Stern Vern’ may have thought. An excellent Autumn Series in which his team beat Argentina and Tonga and pushed New Zealand to the wire created a real sense of optimism about the new coach’s influence. The Six Nations may have dampened some of that enthusiasm, but in Cotter Scotland have an experienced and wily leader who will be under no illusions about the work that needs done before the World Cup.
6. The much-maligned search for a fly half might be over
Finn Russell may not have convinced everybody of his potential to become Scotland’s conductor-in-chief, but the 22-year-old displayed an assuredness and confidence in his game that is rare for a player in his debut Six Nations. Russell looks comfortable in the company of so many Glasgow teammates and the years of chopping and changing fly halves may finally be at an end.
7. Flashes of brilliance
They may only have been flashes, but Scottish fans will easily be able to list previous Six Nations campaigns in which there was very little, if anything, to cheer about. The performances against France and Wales were encouraging albeit flawed, and for a while in the first half against England the Scots looked irresistible. Even Finn Russell’s well-crafted try against the Irish provided a glimpse of beauty. It is one thing creating moments of brilliance and another achieving consistency, but the ability is there if not the experience.
8. Glasgow Warriors are getting better and better
Warriors narrowly missed out on the Pro12 title last year after losing to Leinster in the final, but they promise to go one better this year as they lead the table, playing scintillating rugby along the way. The club are something of a conveyer belt for Scottish internationals and contain the core of the national side. Their continued success bodes well not only for the current Scotland side, but for the continued development of talented youngsters gaining exposure to high-level rugby.
9. The fans
It may seem a bit obvious, but given Scotland’s recent record the fans deserve enormous praise for their continued support and attendance. Murrayfield was packed to the rafters for the Ireland match despite a Six Nations winning drought that goes back to February 2013. Even with the national side on its knees, the supporters continue to flock to the stadium.
10. A kind World Cup draw
Although nothing can be taken for granted, there is no doubt that the pool draw for the World Cup could have gone a lot worse for Scotland. Although it would take a huge performance to beat South Africa, the matches against Samoa, Japan and USA are all winnable. An impressive World Cup would consign the debacle of the Six Nations to the past and Pool B gives Scotland an excellent chance to make it to the lottery of the knockout stages. From there, who knows what could happen.