Five things we learned from Scotland’s autumn Test series

Scotland's Byron McGuigan scores the opening try against Australia. Picture: SNS
Scotland's Byron McGuigan scores the opening try against Australia. Picture: SNS
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Scotland rounded off their autumn Test series with an eight-try victory over Australia at Murrayfield.

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It was a hugely satisfying result for head coach Gregor Townsend, having seen his side also edge out Samoa and run New Zealand close.

Here, Andy Newport and Will Jackson takes a look at five things we learned about the Dark Blues over the past three weeks.

1. Townsend’s philosophy is paying off

The Scotland boss has made this spiel of playing “the fastest brand of rugby in the world” and the players seem to be buying into it, with good results so far. Having beaten Australia home and away - including Saturday’s record 53-24 demolition job - as well as pushing the All Blacks all the way, there is evidence that Scotland are now genuine elite-level contenders. Now the challenge is to transform potential into results when the Six Nations kicks-off in February.

2. Scotland finding strength in depth

In days gone by, out-of-form players would have kept their slot in the Scotland line-up purely by the virtue of there being no-one else to do the job. Now Townsend has a significant pool of credible international-quality players to choose from. It will be of real encouragement to the head coach that his team have performed so well over the last three weeks without the likes of skipper Greig Laidlaw, Duncan Taylor, Mark Bennett, Al Dickinson, WP Nel, Ross Ford, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Rory Sutherland and Richie Gray due to injury. New faces such as Jamie Bhatti, Byron McGuigan and Darryl Marfo have shone after being given chances to impress, while the likes of Tim Visser and Josh Strauss could yet play their way back into contention.

3. Finn Russell ready to make his mark on the continent

The Glasgow stand-off recently confirmed he will join French giants Racing 92 this summer. While making the move to the Top 14 is not without risks for the 25-year-old, Russell has shown he is more than capable of pulling off the move. His vision, tempo and skill level will all go down a hit with French audiences and the step up in quality of opposition he will face week in, week out will only benefit him when he returns to the Scotland fold.

4. Sean Maitland sends out a timely reminder of his qualities

The Saracens back made his return to international action against Australia nine months after being injured against France. He was supposed to start on the wing but was forced to shift to 15 when Stuart Hogg pulled up injured in the warm-up. The reshuffle did not disrupt his display, though, with his 40-metre solo stunner another sign he is ready to make himself a big player for Townsend’s team.

5. Dark Blues need to brush up in defence

The one area of concern for Townsend will be his side’s leaky rearguard. While they have excelled going forward, scoring 15 tries against some top-class opponents, they have also found it difficult to keep them out at the other end. In their crazy series opener with Samoa, they allowed the Pacific Islanders to cross over five times. Things were much tighter against New Zealand yet the world champions still ran in three scores, while the Australians managed another four even as they themselves were being ripped apart on Saturday. If the Scots are to challenge for Six Nations honours, the defensive holes will have to be filled.

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