Duncan Smith gives his take on Scotland’s first loss in this year’s Six Nations
Scrum weakness is hurting
Technically this is not something we learned from Paris as we already knew that having two young inexperienced props in a tournament as demanding as this was always going to be less than ideal. However, after improving on a shaky start against the Irish, what we learned on Sunday is that it is something that will certainly cost us games unless tightened up swiftly. French dominance in this phase of the game was key to their ultimate victory. Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson deserve credit for the verve they have brought to the demands of the Test arena and they have great potential but the Scotland coaches must be hoping to have Alasdair Dickinson back as soon as possible, though the Wales game may be too soon.
Laidlaw’s leadership is vital
The contrast between how Scotland saw out the last ten minutes at home to Ireland and then in Paris was stark. There were various other factors at play but the fact the wily skipper was sitting on the sidelines in a protective boot rather than orchestrating matters on the field must be viewed as a big one. It is also difficult to picture Laidlaw being rushed into that fluffed conversion like Finn Russell was.
The Price is right
If Laidlaw doesn’t make it for the Wales game then, for all the reasons listed above, he will be a big miss but there is no doubt that his probable replacement Ali Price will pose the Welsh a whole host of new problems. Pace is the key to the Glasgow youngster’s game, always on the look out for a quick tap on go, and he has been in great form for his club in Europe this season. He believes he is ready. We may yet see if he is a week on Saturday.
Strauss is back on song
The back-rower was a candidate for man-of-the-match with a dynamic and tireless display of power. There had been a feeling he was not at his best a few months ago and there has been speculation that the Warriors will be willing to let him go at the end of the season. Sunday’s showing is likely to only have increased a number of French clubs’ appetite to take him off Glasgow’s hands.
We’re still in this
For all the feelgood vibes, euphoria of beating Ireland and coming so close in Paris it was a tad dispiriting to look at the Six Nations table on Sunday night and see us back in our traditional spot of second bottom above Italy. England are the only Grand Slam candidates and deserve to be out in front, though the Irish and Welsh have been boosted by big wins in Rome against an Italian side that seems to be returning to whipping boy status, while France’s win edged them above the Scots on points difference. Only three points separate the top five, though and the home game against Wales now becomes absolutely pivotal. Win and Scotland are very much in Triple Crown and even title contention. Lose and we face a daunting trip to Twickenham under pressure and the depressing prospect of a Scotland v Italy finale which reverts to its traditional fifth versus sixth afterthought.