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Scotland come in to this Six Nations in good form, and with their club teams firing on all cylinders. However, with a difficult fixture list, can they break their reputations as the nearly men? It’s going to be tough, as always …
It is fair to say that, on the face of it, these results would be disappointing. Scotland have won three from five in their past two Six Nations. Just one win from five this year would be discouraging, especially given the World Cup is on the horizon.
But, if these results come to pass, should the Scots be disappointed?
In a word, probably, but perhaps not as much as you’d think.
Scotland suffer from being slightly below the level of the ‘big’ teams in the Six Nations. They have improved greatly, but often just don’t have the endurance and squad depth to last out a full tournament. They have the firepower to beat almost anyone on their day, especially at home. However, they lack the consistency to string together the set of results required to win titles.
More than anything, the Algorithm says Scotland have a difficult fixture list. Ireland and Wales at home. England and France away. It predicts that Scotland will likely lose all those games, which most Scots would probably admit – through gritted teeth – is mostly fair. However, some of them are predicted to be pretty close – Wales and France being the most likely to turn.
If Scotland can bring their considerable firepower to bear, on the right days, and probably at home, then we’d say (over the advice of the Algorithm here) that Scotland could reasonably expect to win one other game this year. Perhaps two if they’re lucky. But, sadly for the Scots, that would be quite an over-performance, at least relative to the Algorithm. However, picking which games they might flip … well … let’s see which hat Finn Russell wears on the day.
However, there is a ray of sunshine. Scotland have rarely won their opening game of the Six Nations (only twice ever). Due to the scorelines in the other matches those weekends, Scotland were not top of the table come the end of round 1. Given their difficulties in the rest of the tournaments, we don’t think (but are not 100% sure*) that Scotland have ever topped the Six Nations table.
However, this year, Scotland have that chance. A convincing home win over Italy, gaining the bonus point, and with favourable points difference, should see Scotland top the table for, we think, the first time in Six Nations history. Given Ireland play England, and Wales visit France, both tough matches, we think the scorelines in these matches are unlikely to top a Scottish win over Italy. Unlikely.
A real incentive for the Scots. And after getting their campaign off to this flying start, who knows …
*We haven’t, because of technical difficulties and time constraints, combed through the Six Nations table for every weekend in the last 19 years. Based on Scotland’s opening weekend woes and subsequent tournament performances, this statistic has been inferred. It is possible that there was a points difference quirk that led to the Scots leading the table at one point. If this was the case, please give us a shout and we’ll correct!
It is worth mentioning the club performances. Confidence in the Scottish camp must be high. With Warriors and Edinburgh both making the European Champions Cup quarter-finals in the same year for the first time, they will be hoping to bring some of this form, and big match day experience, to the Six Nations.
Both teams have performed well at home which, combined with Scotland’s own home advantages, might be enough to tip the scales in their favour. Ireland and Wales will have their work cut out visiting Murrayfield, that’s for sure.