As we do after a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Scotland!
As we do after a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, we have third-placed Scotland.
Losing a head coach and following their shock end-of-year defeat to Tonga, Scottish supporters would have been forgiven for biting your hand off if offered the option of a third-placed finish in the Six Nations. Even better was that going into Round Four the Scots were in the mix for the Championship.
Two wins out of three – the victories coming against Italy and Ireland – were ultimately impacted by closing defeats to Wales and France, but heart is definitely taken from their efforts. Furthermore, their tries scored totalled a decent seven, which is a massive response to their usual Achilles heel. Only eventual champions Wales scored more five-pointers than the men from Murrayfield, with the tries having come from five different backline players.
A couple of those were full-back Stuart Hogg's, who was a shining light for them, while the leadership of Kelly Brown was superb. Brown typified the industrious nature of the squad that was highlighted during their win over the Irish at Murrayfield. How they beat those statistics remains a mystery.
The foundations are certainly in place for consistency in both performance and selection, as Ryan Grant showed he is more than capable of filling the shoes of Allan Jacobsen at loosehead prop, while the lock and back-row pretty much picks itself. Further behind, Greig Laidlaw's showing in Paris was impressive and the scrum-half regularly did well alongside first Ruaridh Jackson and more recently Duncan Weir. He's a dark horse for the Lions tour.
Laidlaw finished the Championship in second place on the points tally with five conversions and seventeen penalties in an 88% record off the tee, while Brown was second in both the tackles completed and turnovers won column in a Six Nations campaign that saw him bloodied but most definitely not unbowed.
Credit must also go to the interim coaching duo of Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan, the latter swapping the television studio for the touchline in a move many had hoped he would make due to his rugby knowledge. Ryan now goes back to the broadcast studio in a move that was always the plan, despite being humbled by his stint in the job. We believe it may be the beginning of other such roles for him before he possibly moves back into full-time coaching.
In summary, there were more positives than negatives with one gripe possibly being the creativity in the three-quarters. There is no question they have finishing talent in Sean Maitland and Tim Visser but whether Sean Lamont provides enough try-scoring opportunities remains one unsolved query. For now though, a call needs to be made on who will lead the side through to their June clashes with Samoa and South Africa at Mbombela Stadium and Kings Park.