Six Nations preview: Scotland

Date published: January 29 2013

With the Six Nations set for kick-off this weekend, Planet Rugby takes a look at each team's chances in 2013. First up, Scotland!

With the Six Nations set for kick-off this weekend, Planet Rugby takes a look at each team's chances in 2013. First up, Scotland!

Last Year: Disappointing would be an understatement. Five defeats from five meant the wooden spoon was Scotland's in 2012. But it all could have started so differently as a charge-down try from Charlie Hodgson saw them fall 6-13 to England before negatives to Wales, France and Ireland preceded a final-round loss away to Italy.

They were dominated by the Azzurri in that first-half and were lucky to go in level at three apiece before a second-half try from winger Giovanbattista Venditti put the seal on Italy's victory. That Six Nations effort turned out to be the beginning of the end of Andy Robinson's coaching stint at the helm as – after a decent June Test series – a further shock loss to Tonga saw the Englishman stand down. A tough year.

This year: The only way is up, as they say, but Scotland will travel to their opener at Twickenham as heavy underdogs. On paper their side is not too shabby, particularly in the lock and back-row department, so opponents will find it difficult to break them down. But as has been the case for such a long time, getting the backline firing is their real Achilles heel.

Keep an eye on 22-year-old centre Matt Scott and new wing Sean Maitland should he get the nod to start as they may bring a change of fortunes, with Scott revealing that the defeat to Tonga was a tough one to take as in his words, “I don't think I've ever played in as bad a team performance as that” so there's an opportunity for the squad to respond. Unfortunately we don't see it happening.

Players to watch: Two players jump out from the forward pack and they are Richie Gray and Kelly Brown. The former has shown glimpses of his running game in Sale colours this season but in a team that has lost more than it's won, a stint of international rugby may see Gray – who is now a senior member of the Scottish squad – cause opposition real issues.

Brown has been outstanding for Saracens for a long period and quite rightly retained as captain this campaign. An immense, no frills leader up front who we feel should be on the plane to Australia. Further back, new wing Sean Maitland will hope to make his international bow in the Six Nations. Both he and Tim Visser know their way to the try-line…now, can Scotland create something for the duo?

Prospects: With a new coach at the helm and a somewhat daunting opener at Twickenham, many are expecting Scotland to be scrapping it out with the Azzurri to avoid the wooden spoon. However, three successive home games against Italy, Ireland and Wales won't be easy for their visitors.

On paper, the locks, back-row, half-backs and back-three are good quality so if they can gain confidence from a good win over Italy, one of the home nations may come unstuck at Murrayfield. In truth there is a 'nothing to lose' tag attached to the Scots, which as we've seen in the past, suits them well.

2 February: v England – Away
9 February: v Italy – Home
24 February: v Ireland – Home
9 March: v Wales – Home
16 March: v France – Away