The hype and expectation levels were noticeably low ahead of a Six Nations opener against England all those weeks ago.

Early February and eerily quiet, not even a dark horse tag to speak of from the experts who weighed up the title hopes for Gregor Townsend 's side. But the flick of a switch, lights, camera, action and a Calcutta Cup triumph was delivered at the home of rugby and the volume has been cranked up for weeks now about a side capable of beating the very best.

It would prove to be a false dawn as defeats to France and Ireland took the wind from Scotland's sails and now it's all eyes on the World Cup which kicks off in December with Townsend's team facing South Africa up first. Here is Record Sport's assessment of where this side sits ahead of the World Cup and whether our ambitions are now backed by abilities.

Partners in crime

A huge plus for Townsend has been the cementing of the relatively inexperienced midfield partnership of Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones and the pair have been the driving force for this side in recent weeks.

Tuipulotu is as dynamic a centre as there's been on show during this Six Nations after his meteoric rise to become a crucial cog alongside Jones in ball winning duties, carrying and bringing an attacking threat.

The Glasgow pair have complimented one another superbly and do much of the unseen dirty work and Jones in particular has been a selfless supporting runner which has earned him several crucial tries over this campaign and they were both at the forefront of that Twickenham success.

Not so gentle Ben

Another relative newcomer but priceless find has been Ben White at scrum-half and this campaign has seen him flourish and make the number nine jersey his own. Not only has the London Irish star shown try scoring ability, it's his consistency in the tackle and finding the room for his playmaking sidekick Finn Russell to pull the strings.

White has spoken of his role in making sure Russell is given quick ball and it's that increase in tempo who has been the attacking catalyst for the slick, attacking play on show from this Scotland side.

That ability to bring other players into the game and open up space for runners has brought a clinical dimension to an approach which remains determined to play a fast brand of rugby.

It's not Blair

It may appear harsh in the extreme to pick faults in Blair Kinghorn's three try scoring display against Italy but Finn Russell's deputy at stand-off doesn't fit well into a playmaking role. A lack of subtlety and precision both in decision making and distribution with both hand and boot only served to highlight Russell's invaluable role within Townsend's team.

Kinghorn should only be a last resort option in that number 10 position as his talents lis in using his running power with ball in hand and there appears to be an increased strength and confidence in the Edinburgh man's make-up this season.

Replacing Hogg at full-back may appear to be a sacrilege but Kinghorn's current form merits more of a chance in the back three as he's grown into a genuine candidate for a start in the role.

Is Gregor a goner?

We may well discover within the next few weeks whether Gregor Townsend is to sign a contract extension with his current deal due to expire after the World Cup in France this summer.

The Scotland boss was saying little on the subject on Saturday but he knows he has options and a move to a European club may hold strong appeal after six years in charge of his country.

If it's to be a fond farewell at the end of the year then it would surely have an adverse impact on the bonds formed within this group during his time in charge. Players wan't to operate under stability and continuity is key so knowing their boss was heading off after the tournament would risk undoing all of the momentum which has been built during recent months.

Chemical brothers

Jamie Ritchie spoke at the weekend of a Scotland squad which is based on friendships, respect and a desire to fight for one another regardless. That has been clear to see as an all for one and one for all approach has bonded togetherness which has helped the team survive critical moments in games such as the last period of the first half against the Welsh and the recovery from going 19-0 down to France in Paris which ran Les Bleus close.

You win nothing in sport without genuine solidarity and Scotland appear to have some new leaders with the likes of Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell no longer the huge influences they once were off the field.

That has helped the focus of the group and with Ritchie impressing after replacing Hogg as skipper, this does appear to be a band of brothers who believe they can take on the very best.

Licence to thrill

A highlights package of this Six Nations would have Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn's names up in lights as the pair have brought such flair and clinical finishing power to the Scotland attack that looks like inflicting damage every time an opposition 22 is breached.

Van der Merwe has been a welcome addition as he has an eye for the drama of an occasion and his weaving try against England is as good as it gets at this level. He followed that with an acrobatic finish against the Welsh which defied gravity. These two powerhouses can offer Scotland attacking hope both at the World Cup and beyond.


2023-03-19T15:53:59Z dg43tfdfdgfd