Scotland coach Townsend has problems to solve as he tries to salvage some pride in Six Nations

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Scotland will spend the next few days licking their wounds and trying to establish exactly where it all went so horribly wrong in Paris last weekend.

For Gregor Townsend and his players, the time has come for some deep self-reflection after they failed to lay a glove on a France team who had previously been mired in crisis.

Let’s not forget that the final scoreline of 27-10 could have been significantly worse – had the French not had three tries ruled out by the TMO.

Scotland suffered a 27-10 defeat on Saturday and France had three tries ruled out by the TMO

Scotland suffered a 27-10 defeat on Saturday and France had three tries ruled out by the TMO

Scotland suffered a 27-10 defeat on Saturday and France had three tries ruled out by the TMO

So, where exactly do the Scots go from this sorry episode? 

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the problems facing Townsend as the head coach seeks to salvage some pride from the remaining two games in this Six Nations campaign.

Lack of depth was brutally exposed in Paris It goes without saying, of course, that any team would miss two world-class talents such as Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell.

With the likes of Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson, John Barclay, Huw Jones, Sam Skinner and WP Nel also missing, Scotland’s lack of options was laid bare for all to see.

You simply can’t rely on your first-choice XV being fit and available for every match. There have to be alternatives and guys who are capable of stepping up to the plate.

Scotland will hope to have fly-half Finn Russell back in the side after suffering a head knock

Scotland will hope to have fly-half Finn Russell back in the side after suffering a head knock

Scotland will hope to have fly-half Finn Russell back in the side after suffering a head knock

This is where Scotland were found badly wanting last weekend. Of the players who started the match at the Stade de France, did any of them actually achieve pass marks?

Well, barely. Of the forward pack, only Jamie Ritchie and Grant Gilchrist can look at themselves in the mirror and feel like they did the jersey any sort of justice.

In the backs, Blair Kinghorn’s solid kicking from hand was blemished by the fact that he made too many errors in defence.

Peter Horne didn’t disgrace himself at fly-half, but nor did he offer anything to dispel the notion that his best position is, by far and away, inside centre.

Nick Grigg, meanwhile, just isn’t a viable option at Test level. He tackled well enough, but the fact he made just six metres – yes, six… a centre who played the full 80 minutes – spoke volumes about his lack of impact.

Young scrum-half Antoine Dupont was a crucial figure as France returned to form in Paris

Young scrum-half Antoine Dupont was a crucial figure as France returned to form in Paris

Young scrum-half Antoine Dupont was a crucial figure as France returned to form in Paris

In what areas of the pitch are we particularly weak?

Truthfully, everywhere. Across the board, the current crop of players just don’t offer the same depth that is available to our Six Nations rivals.

Let’s start at centre. Prior to his injury, Jones had been badly out of form yet still started the opening two matches against Italy and Ireland.

Why? Because there wasn’t really a genuine alternative, hence the clear reluctance from Townsend to drop him.

The likes of Duncan Taylor and Alex Dunbar would have been in the picture, but they have both been plagued by injuries in recent times.

Mark Bennett making his long-awaited return from injury for Edinburgh in their game against Cardiff last weekend would have been a welcome sight.

If he goes well against Benetton this Saturday, don’t bet against him being called up to face Wales at BT Murrayfield the following weekend.

The same applies to lock Richie Gray, who has been getting a solid run of games under his belt for a Toulouse side who currently sit top of the league in France.

The back row is a long-standing source of frustration. Ritchie has made a strong start to his Test career and Watson has also established himself as an excellent openside when fit.

But, largely, it’s all much of a muchness. Scotland don’t have a true wrecking ball or anyone who can offer a real point of difference as a ball-carrier in the back row.

Granted, he never had quick ball to work with, but the manner in which Greig Laidlaw was outshone by young Antoine Dupont on Saturday was also worrying. Ali Price needs to do more on a consistent basis to present himself as a genuine rival at scrum-half and the same applies to Adam Hastings with Russell at fly-half.

How much did the gameplan cost Scotland? Does Townsend need to work on a Plan B?

The All Blacks don’t have much of a Plan B. But that’s because Plan A happens to be consistently outstanding.

Clearly, Scotland aren’t at that level. They can’t rely on just overpowering and overwhelming the opposition.

They have to cut their cloth accordingly. Failure to do so doesn’t show a conviction to their methods, but a naivety to learn from their mistakes.

There’s no middle ground with this Scotland team. They are either a joy to watch and score a bagful of tries when it all clicks, or they have us all screaming with frustration at just how inept they can be when it goes wrong.. They need to learn how to win ugly.

In this respect, Wales represent the perfect example of how Townsend and his players can grow and develop as a group.

Wales were terrible for the opening half of their first match against France in Paris. Yet they somehow found a way to fight back and sneak a victory.

They then travelled to Rome and ground out a gutsy, scrappy victory over Italy. Now? Well, Warren Gatland’s men have a Grand Slam firmly in their sights after last weekend’s rousing home win over England.

Are we really progressing as much as we think under Townsend?

At the moment, you would have to say no. The feelgood factor that had enveloped Scottish rugby since Vern Cotter’s days is slowly but surely beginning to dissipate.

We lost two of our four games last autumn. The only matches we did win were against Fiji and Argentina, so there was very little to write home about.

We won three matches in last year’s Six Nations and finished in a credible enough third position in the final standings, above France, England and Italy.

But this year has been a different story. With the way things are panning out at the moment, we are staring at the very real prospect of winning just one game in this year’s Championship.

You can’t go from winning three games last year to winning just one – against Italy, let’s not forget – and still claim to be making progress.

But, beyond the results, it’s the style of rugby which is beginning to be questioned. What’s the old saying about doing exactly the same things and expecting different results? Madness, isn’t it?

How important has the match against Wales now become?

Scotland should shelve any talk of trying to stop a Welsh Grand Slam when Gatland’s men come calling to Murrayfield on March 9. It will be a game they have to win for entirely their own reasons.

With the World Cup beginning to loom large on the horizon, Scotland have to inject some momentum back into their camp.

A meaningful victory against a fellow tier-one nation – and one which will be riding high on a wave of confidence – would certainly do that.

Failure to do so will only increase the feeling that this is a team who have regressed. Disproving this is now the challenge that awaits them.



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