Scotland can have no qualms about being knocked out of the World Cup in the group stages. They were bested by a Japan side that were truly amazing. Japan arguably did them a favour – who knows what the score would have been if they came up against South Africa in the quarter finals.
They are not a bad team, and are capable of flashes of brilliance. Scottish rugby is streets ahead of where it was 5 years ago, thanks to the genius of Finn Russell. They no longer fight for 5th – everyone has higher expectations of them. On their day, they can beat anyone in the competition, at least at home.
This year, Glasgow and Edinburgh have been in good form – Edinburgh in particular, who top their Pro14 conference. Matt Scott is back from injury, back in form and back in the squad. We could see him form an exciting partnership with Huw Jones in the midfield this tournament.
Because of Scotland’s depth in the centres, Bennett (Edinburgh) is pushed out of the squad, although many feel like he had done enough to make the cut.
In terms of the pack – Du Preez is back to potentially give Scotland the go-forward that they lacked in the World Cup. So too will Scott Cummings (Glasgow).
Those keeping up with the news (not too tough – it’s everywhere) will know that Russell won’t feature against Ireland in their opening game. He could even miss the whole tournament. Adam Hastings is a good replacement, but not having the man that masterminded the 31-point comeback against England last year is a massive loss for rugby neutrals and Scotland fans alike.
The silver lining for Scotland is Darcy Graham. Graham has been in scintillating form recently, and just ran in 4 tries against Agen. His blistering pace will be … wait, sorry, no, he’s injured now too … it could be a difficult opening game for the Scots.
The Algorithm predicts that Scotland will finish 5th (42%).
They’ll be hoping for a miracle this 6 Nations, and it remains to be seen who’s going to conjure it in the absence of some of their star players.
Full-back Stuart Hogg hasn’t been at his usual best since he moved to Exeter this summer. However, you can never rule out the European player of the year nominee to produce some magic. In the absence of Russell, the expectations and hopes of Scotland will once again rest on him.