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Thursday, 31 January 2019

Scotland's 6 Nations Preview

Ah, six nations time. The few weeks when us Scotland fans go through an absolute rollercoaster of emotions…usually ending in tears.

Last year, we went in having come SO CLOSE to New Zealand and I for one genuinely thought it was going to be our year. Then Cardiff happened…I’ll be honest here, I haven’t seen the Cardiff game. I was working a double (rookie error – I know!) that day from 7am until 11pm so I decided to go on a social media lock down, put my phone away in the cupboard and pretend the game wasn’t happening before going home at 11 and putting it on. I got to about 10 minutes in and when I was tweeting about how I was watching it and got a load of people telling me to just give up because it wasn’t worth it. So, I did, but only after Graham Love promised me that we did actually manage to score at some point. Not that I’ve seen when or who it was who did score, mind. Aaaaaanyway, let’s come back from that tangent and back to 2019.

I’m hoping this year goes better than our last six nations in World Cup year, because 2015 was pretty damn bad. Still, it can only get better…. right? *fingers crossed*

As per usual with a Gregor Townsend squad, the Toony Tombola has been in full flow. Not that there has been as many surprises this year as there usually is. He’s normally got us googling who at least one player is, but not this time. Although at this rate we’ll be having to google another backrower because they’re all broken. As if losing JB wasn’t enough, we had to lose The Mish? (serious note…how is he going to manage to play Fortnite with a broken hand?! This is the kind of thing I spend far too much time worrying about, tbh….) Although his absence does bring a welcome return for John Hardie who has been playing well for Newcastle. If he can get back to his 2015/2016 form, then I pity the ribs of any player he tackles! I’m also really looking forward to seeing how Jamie Ritchie goes in his first six nations – although if players younger than me could stop tearing up the international scene that would be great because it makes me feel like I should be achieving more….
The other burning question is around who goes on the bench at hooker. I’m not going to lie, there was a moment of ‘oh for god’s sake not him aswell…’ anytime Stuart McInally went down during the Montpellier game, but he got through in one piece. When I said that we didn’t have to google any player to see who he was, that’s probably because journos had already been running pieces about who was going to be our reserve hooker after injuries to both Brown and Turner at Glasgow!
There was a lot of…interesting takes, shall we say, on some forums about how Henry Pyrgos hadn’t been included in the squad originally (I think a favourite was someone saying that Toony should be sacked for not picking him…I did say they were *interesting* takes…) although I’m not sure you can really complain when you’ve got Wee Greeg, Ali and George Horne…or Horn-ito according to some blogs and podcasts (Cammy, I’ll take my royalties in alcohol!). There were also clamours of a return for Duncy Weir who has been playing well at Worcester but, as with Pyrgos, although they may be playing well, I’m still not sure that they fit with the image of Townsend and his team wanting to play the fastest brand of rugby in the world. (and now ignore everything I just said, because Pyrgos was called into the squad this week….)

As for picking our best XV, or even matchday 23, I’m still not sure where Toony will go. Especially with starting with Italy…Do we use it as a way to blood some experience and play the likes of Darcy Graham and Christine…sorry Chris Dean…Sam Johnson etc and run the risk of us falling flat on our face? It wouldn’t be like Scotland, I know…*cough* or do we play as much full strength as we can with only a couple of tweaks, or just go full out? There is a World Cup in about 8 months’ time, don’t forget so do we need to try and get as much game time together as one (handy slogan that, by the SRU!) …or do we give young and fringe players their best shot of making the plane to Japan? Oh, how I wouldn’t want to be an international coach….

Personally, I would go for Dell, McInally, Nel, Gilchrist and Gray Jr, Ritchie, Hardie, Ashe, Laidlaw, Russell, Graham, Johnson, Jones, Seymour, Hoggy. The pack was a pretty straightforward pick, where I started to struggle was in the backs, which is still a fairly novel position to be in for a young Scotland fan. Aaah the days of Nick de Luca *sigh*. I was going to do a bench but since that would mean making more selection choices, I decided against it…writing this has taught me that I really wouldn’t want to be a coach! At one point I wanted to have 3 wingers and 2 fullbacks just to have everyone in. Not sure how World Rugby would like that…what I will say though, is that it is nice to have a second option at 10 in Adam Hastings who is challenging Finn and who doesn’t make me do a sharp intake of breath when I see Finn is needing replaced! Same goes for Hoggy with King Blairhorn. Although I would much rather have Hoggy and Finn, those two youngsters will step up if needed!

When asked where I think Scotland will finish in this tournament, my heart says we’ll win the grand slam with 5 bonus point wins and a record hammering of England at Twickers, my head thinks we’ll finish behind England and Ireland in 3rd and my big fear is that it goes just like 2015 and we don’t win anything. Although I’m hoping that those days are behind us! Can’t see anyone but Ireland winning the title. I cannot wait for the tournament to start – for anyone who hasn’t been to Murrayfield and heard the anthem when the music stops and it’s just the crowd and the players singing then you are missing out big time. It’s something that gives me goosebumps every time. Although the singing at the end of the Calcutta last year came pretty damn close to being just as special.

Whichever country you’re from, and whoever you support, I hope you have a cracking tournament and that we’re all celebrating a Scottish win in seven weeks’ time! If we do, and you see me getting as drunk as our wee Greeg did after beating England last year, then please make me drink some water – I don’t have time for bad hangovers 😉
Fi xxx

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