How can Scotland realise their true potential and get this Six Nations campaign back on track? Duncan Smith answers
Cut down the error count
Scotland made way too many handling errors against England last weekend, denying them the opportunity to build any pressure or momentum. Knock-ons and turnovers blighted their hopes of keeping the English pinned down and, in contrast to Wales in Dublin, the Scots were unable to build long periods of phase possession and stretch the opposition defence.
Take their chances
There weren’t many in the face of a superbly organised England defence last weekend and, away from home in the cauldron of Cardiff, they are likely to be scarce again. When try scoring opportunities do arise, such as with the botched Finn Russell interception last weekend, they simply must be taken or it could be a long afternoon for the Scots.
Come out firing in the second half
In the World Cup the Scots tended to grow into games as they went on after slow starts, which is in contrast to the story of their recent Six Nations record. Test matches tend to be won or lost in the final quarter and it is imperative that Scotland are in touch and still taking the game to Wales down the final stretch.
Keep the tempo up
Vern Cotter’s Scotland have proved that they prosper more in fast open games than the likes of last weekend’s arm wrestle which saw them slowly squeezed to death by England. Against Samoa and Australia in the World Cup they found more space to unleash their attacking flair in the backs and, while the Samoa game almost went wrong and the Wallabies epic ultimately ended in defeat, taking the game to the opposition seems the best, and, let’s face it, most entertaining option.
Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw has a key role to play in this by delivering quick ball to Finn Russell and the backline. He did that against the Wallabies last October to obvious effect but things slowed down again against England last weekend.
Win the midfield battle
Easier said than done when you are up against experienced centres like Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts. Unfortunately, Matt Scott is out with a quad injury but his replacement Duncan Taylor has been outstanding for Saracens this season and Mark Bennett, who was a star in the World Cup, is bound to feel the better of a run out last week after injury and will be bursting to have more of an impact this weekend.
Defence will be key and Taylor faced Roberts in the Aviva Premiership a few weeks ago. If it goes without saying that rugby games are won up front then it could well be from the midfield where the killer blows are struck.
In general, Scotland are bound to be stung by some of the criticism they have received from last weekend and we should expect to see a reaction. Cardiff is a tough place to go and it may be that victory eludes them again, but the talent is there to produce a much improved performance. We’ll find out on Saturday.
THE SCOTSMAN ON SOCIAL MEDIA