Scotland tour: Defence guru Steve Tandy plans ‘recalibration’ in Argentina after Six Nations dip

Scotland boasted a miserly defence in the 2020 and 2021 Six Nations but came unstuck this year during a campaign that saw them concede an average of three tries per match.

If opponents have learned how to crack the code then it’s time for the security chief to rethink his strategy and Steve Tandy will use this summer’s tour of South America to put in place more robust safety measures.

The Welshman is widely considered an expert in his field and had an immediate impact when he was appointed Scotland’s defence coach in December 2019. In the Six Nations that followed Gregor Townsend’s side conceded fewest tries (five - champions England were second best on nine) and fewest points (59, compared to England’s 77).

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It’s true that Scotland didn’t score too freely that season but the balance was tweaked the following year and Townsend’s team still managed to boast the second best defensive record in the championship, with 10 tries and 91 points conceded.

Fast forward 12 months and the Scots were the second worst team defensively, with only Italy beneath them. Time to tighten up, acknowledged Tandy.

“There’s always a bit of recalibration,” he said ahead of Sunday’s flight to Chile.

“We had a couple of amazing seasons around our defence. Looking back at the Six Nations, France was a big disappointment but I don’t think it was all around the D.

“The last 15 minutes against Italy, we were really disappointed with that. But it was nothing we felt about what they were doing, it was where we need to be, and to be better. Ultimately, we’re striving to be better than we were there.”

Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

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The sloppy end to the match in Rome did not affect the outcome as Scotland had built a healthy lead and won 33-22 but the concession of two late tries left a bad taste for Tandy. Scotland conceded 15 in total and the defence coach knows the team will have to more miserly during the three-Test series against Argentina.

One need only look at the threat posed this season by Edinburgh’s Emiliano Boffelli to understand the potency in the Pumas squad.

“Trying to stop Argentina’s about 15, they’ve got real depth across the board,” said Tandy. “Boffelli has been outstanding for Edinburgh, he’s a high ball threat. We know we have to be what we want to be defensively in particular. We believe our team and our system will be capable of that.

Mark Bennett trains at Oriam in the final session before the squad leaves for South America. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“They’ve got quality, you see the experience they’ve got within the group. They’ve got guys playing Super Rugby, boys playing all over the world. They’re absolute physical beasts so it’s going to be a huge test for us, it’s going to be a real challenge but it’s one we can’t wait to undertake.”

It’s a big tour for Boffelli’s Edinburgh team-mate Blair Kinghorn who, in the absence of the rested Finn Russell, is likely to be first-choice stand-off. The withdrawal through injury of Adam Hastings on Friday limits further Scotland’s options at ten and Tandy confirmed that Kinghorn is likely to be frontline goalkicker.

Scotland will warm up for the Argentina Tests with an A game against Chile next Saturday in which Townsend will field a team of home-based players as the match falls outside the international window.

Steve Tandy was disappointed with aspects of Scotland's defensive play during the victory over Italy in Rome. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)
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