Yet, Scotland’s minimum has to be three wins. Beating Italy away and France at home is not good enough from an experienced international coach who now also has a World Cup campaign under his belt. Losing only one game at home would be acceptable if two wins on the road are picked up. This would be progress.
The retirement, from a playing perspective, of Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay, and Tommy Seymour will not have a detrimental effect on the team’s onfield performance. Off the pitch it already has. If Laidlaw or Barclay had been at the team hotel the Finn Russell situation most likely would have been nipped in the bud.
The lack of game time for Scotland’s loosehead options is worrying. The world’s best tighthead, Tadhg Furlong, will be licking his lips at the prospect of having a prolonged crack at his scrummaging opponent in Dublin tomorrow evening. Stuart Hogg’s appointment as skipper is interesting. Does he have the bandwidth, tactical astuteness, game/referee management skills or people skills to make even a decent fist of it? Or is he from the “come on, boys” school of captaincy? I suspect the latter.
Could Scotland’s big-occasion bottling mentality that has been a constant in the current regime have been avoided if a Scottish coach had been allowed to go on the 2017 British Lions tour to New Zealand? Saying “no” was extremely short-sighted.
Exposure for a coach against the ultimate opposition, in the media glare, working with Warren Gatland in a tour environment with and against the best players and coaches on foreign fields, soaking up new ideas and challenges would have been invaluable to bring back to the camp.
In Dublin last year on the opening weekend, England put in a monumental performance. Big Billy V standing huge in the Irish 22, impossible to bring to the floor before off-loading to Ben Youngs.
The ball then flashed wide to Jonny May who touched down in the left corner. 7– 0 with 90 seconds on the clock. England had the physicality to keep on keeping on. Scotland can’t play that game: that is how teams play (successfully) against Scotland. The powerful Irish 23 selected for tomorrow will take this approach. To have any chance Scotland have to box clever, play at a fast pace and keep what has been seen to be a predictable, leggy and one-paced Ireland on the go.
Ireland were bang average last year. Everyone could see it… apart from Ireland. Remember at Murrayfield: Seymour’s pass over Sean Maitland’s head to gift a try to Conor “box-kick” Murray and the poor pass by Huw Jones to deny Seymour a try in the right corner on half-time. If Scotland can come close to their display last year and add accuracy they will have an outside chance.