CAPTAIN: Stuart Hogg
HEAD COACH: Gregor Townsend
With regular hookers Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally both likely to miss most, if not all, of the tournament, George Turner, who has been a bit-part player for the international side, will likely be their first-choice in that position. Newcastle Falcons flanker Gary Graham has been in electric form this season so far, and will be a good option off the bench in the back row. Gloucester’s experienced centre Chris Harris continues to be one of the best players at Kingsholm, and will be a reliable option among the backs. The most talked-about call-up, however, is Bath centre Cameron Redpath, who has been one of the best and most creative players in the Premiership this season, and this tournament could be where he makes his name on the international stage.
Jonny Gray is always a presence on the pitch. He is a tall player, and is good in the lineout and getting his team forwards. Since moving to Exeter Chiefs from Glasgow Warriors, he has established himself as one of the key players in the team, and is the type of player who can add a spark when his team needs one.
There are many excellent options among the backs for Scotland, but the return of Finn Russell at fly-half is very welcome, after he missed last year’s tournament following a falling-out with Gregor Townsend. However, in the Autumn Nations Cup, Russell, who plays for Paris-based Top 14 side Racing 92, was the creative centre of all of Scotland’s good play, as we have mentioned in previous analysis pieces, and we can expect that he will be their heartbeat in this year’s Six Nations too.
Despite missing one of their best players in Finn Russell, we have to say that Scotland’s 2020 Six Nations campaign was one of much improvement by them, with them beginning to gel all of their talents together. The headline is that their performances were so much better, having been more easy to beat in previous years, but they ended up finishing fourth in the 2020 table, losing in Dublin and at home to England, but beating Italy, France and Wales; those were deserved wins too, not lucky ones. They didn’t tend to score too many points in matches, only racking up 77 in all five games, and only Italy had less, but they conceded the least as well, so it shows how their tactics were based around defending well, and then making sure that the chances they did have to score were not wasted.
Given the level of performances they put on last season, we can only hope that they play as well this year. However, it is difficult to see them placing any higher in the table than fourth, because of the quality that England, France and Ireland showed. Wales and Ireland both have points to prove this year, but if Scotland play as well as they did last year, and keep up the levels of excitement that they generated, then they will have a good chance of finishing around third or fourth again.