Summer Lovin' Wayne Barnes Style - Scotland
Third in a series of previews for the June Test Season.
Teams have been named for the touring nations and disruptive injuries have played their part. For the Home Nations (such a colonial term), each side has its own momentum (good and less so) and quite specific imperatives, regardless of whether they officially acknowledge them. [As much as I would like to do these pieces for Italy, France, and the southern hemisphere nations too, I just have not seen enough of their rugby this Spring. Hopefully that will change in the future.]
Scotland continue to grow into a threatening side, but only at home. No longer do a few injuries completely neuter Scottish test ambitions, and they legitimately belong among top tier teams again. Scotland are nearly the inverse of what they were going to the previous three World Cups. Those vintages were capable of heroic defensive efforts that would allow them to sneak an odd game. Now, their attacking mindset and player commitment to ‘give it a go’ mean opponents have to show up and score points. Unfortunately for Scotland, the defence rarely stands up the way it used to and they ship points with an almost casual indifference. They go into Summer with two big pain points to address.
- A couple of away wins that feature world-class defence are needed to further Scotland’s continued improvement. They have only one tier-one team ahead of them, and how they fare in Argentina will be a telling indication of their progress. Scotland do not have to win, but resolute defence does have to play a big part.
- New blood are going to get their opportunities this tour, and Scottish fans need to be patient and not bray for their favourites at every error. While many see Russell and Hogg as the backline heroes, I think Huw Jones quickly has become irreplaceable at outside centre and quite possibly Scotland’s most important player. Continued offensive threat would be a real testament to much-improved depth.
A modest, but important tour for Scotland. They should ease to comfortable wins against Canada and U.S.A., leading up to a bellwether finish in Argentina. Townsend would be delighted to see some of the new faces grow into serious selection candidates.
What we want to see
- A strong return from Fraser Brown - while Stuart McInally has taken full advantage of the opportunity to play, Brown is a quality player who offers serious competition and depth Scotland will need to compete.
- Some sense that Townsend can get his backs to create tries without Russell, Jones, and Hogg.
- A strong initial showing by a Hastings in a Scotland jersey.
- Low scores by their opponents.
After two comfortable wins, Scotland should be primed for a big effort against the Pumas. However, the Argentines are mid-season and their prep is more urgent, as they move closer to the Rugby Championship. An optimist would hope for a near-classic to wrap up the Scotland tour. More realistically, expect Scotland to show the mileage of a long season.