Scotland have endured some tough times over the last decade consistently vying for the wooden spoon alongside Italy. A stark contrast to their glory days in the 90’s where they took a GrandSlam a World Cup semifinal and closed the decade out with the last Five Nations trophy ever.
Multiple coaches later Scotland have settled on Vern Cotter as the man to restore their form. Widely regarded as one of the best and most astute coaches in the modern game, but having never quite seen the Top 14 powerhouse that is ASM Clermont Auvergne home to silverware, all eyes are firmly on him to see if he can deliver on the big stage, and the initial signs of progress are extremely promising.
Scotland for me have always been at their best when trying to play a fast low to the ground rucking game. Traditionally they are a team with small forwards and quick creative backs and I feel Scotland lost their way a bit in the last decade trying to play confrontational Rugby against teams with a far more physical profile then they could offer. Thankfully Cotter seems to be intent on taking them back to the quick expansive game that always suited them, one that utilises the space created by moving a defence around at breathtaking space.
So with a promising Autumn International series under his belt you’ve got feel for him a little when his first 6 Nations game in charge is France in Paris.
Scotland haven’t beaten France in their last 8 attempts, and haven’t won in Paris since 1999, so you can see the scale of the challenge. Sadly for Scotland France came out on top again taking their winning run to 9 wins in a thunderously close game, and in among all that Dougie Fife slid over for what is arguably the try of the weekend as Scotland went down fighting.
Regular readers on both here and Green and Gold Rugby will know I have a massive bee in my bonnet about poorly executed exit strategies and this try is another example of the wheels being set in motion by bad decision making in the defending teams 22 followed by a very poorly executed kick chase – which at this level is unforgivable.
From the kick chase we get a good look at Scotlands favoured attack attern and much like New Zealand they aim to "zone the pitch" and split it into three attack channels. Using two solid pods that stay and carry in the wide channel and then link players, like Cowan and Beattie for example, to form auxillary punch groups that assemble on the fly as they rapidly transition across the pitch. It's a breakneck speed style of rugby reliant on excellent decision making both on ball and as a support runner and we can see here that it pulls a very solid french defence back and forth at such a rate they never get settled into anything approaching their favoured defensive patterm.
Alas it was not enough for Scotland to get the win, but it was a rare moment of classy Rugby in a solid if not inspiring weekend of 6 Nations Rugby and I think if Scotland can continue this progress they’ll trouble bigger sides than France.
Author: The Dead Ball Area
Graeme Forbes has run The Dead Ball Area since 2014.
You can find his material on Green and Gold Rugby, Rugbydump Coaching and Youtube. You can also find him randomly arguing with people on Twitter.