By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 28/01/20 4:16pm
Can Scotland react to a disappointing 2019 in the 2020 Six Nations?
Off the back of a very disappointing Rugby World Cup showing, can Gregor Townsend get Scotland back to form in 2020?
Last year’s Championship was one of great hope for Scotland before the tournament started, but ultimately proved one of negatives.
A 33-20 win over Italy during Round 1 in Edinburgh was followed up by defeats to Ireland at home (22-13) and France in Paris (27-10). Round 4 brought a third defeat on the spin, as eventual Grand Slam winners Wales eked out an 18-11 at Murrayfield, in a Test which Scotland had regrets from.
2019 was not a good year for Scottish rugby, winning just one Six Nations clash and suffering World Cup pool stage elimination
If they had regrets from that contest, however, they were cursing themselves after the final day. Down 31-0 to England at half-time at Twickenham, Townsend’s charges staged one of the most remarkable comebacks in history, drawing level before edging ahead 38-31 with just four minutes left.
A George Ford try under the posts in the final play of the game left things 38-38 at the final whistle though as Scotland saw a first potential win at Twickenham since 1983 evaporate in extraordinary circumstances. Can they do better this year?
- Ireland – Aviva Stadium – Saturday, February 1 – 4.45pm (GMT)
- England – Murrayfield – Saturday, February 8 – 4.45pm (GMT)
- Italy – Stadio Olimpico – Saturday, February 22 – 2.15pm (GMT)
- France – Murrayfield – Sunday, March 8 – 3pm (GMT)
- Wales – Principality Stadium – Saturday, March 14 – 2.15pm (GMT)
The question marks with Scotland at Test level perennially revolve around the physical strength of their pack and forwards and whether they can maintain parity with the other nations.
Darcy Graham is part of an exciting Scotland back division
Where they are not lacking though is in talented backs. Within the squad, Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, Byron McGuigan, Sam Johnson, Rory Hutchinson and Adam Hastings have all demonstrated abilities to excel on the highest stage.
The situation regarding leading out-half Finn Russell has been extremely high profile and overwhelmingly negative.
The playmaker, who has been in sensational form for Racing 92 in the European Cup and Top 14 this season, exited the Scotland Six Nations camp during the first week after what was termed a ‘breach of team protocol’.
Scotland playmaker Finn Russell is absent from the squad due to a ‘breach of team protocol’
Reports have since surfaced that Russell refused to stop drinking at the team hotel when asked, missed training and then voluntarily chose to return to France, where he then started for Racing against Castres on Saturday.
Adam Hastings has been in super form for Glasgow too and will come in at 10, but either way, what has gone on with Russell – one of the leaders in recent times under Townsend – has been a thoroughly unwanted distraction.
The next development is sure to make headlines again, but it would appear unlikely Russell will return to the fold at this stage.
A timeline of the Scotland/Finn Russell situation
Scotland enter the Championship under new captaincy as Stuart Hogg leads his country for the first time, taking over from hooker Stuart McInally – who does remain in the pack.
Stuart Hogg approached Gregor Townsend to become the new Scotland captain before being asked
Elsewhere, Townsend has named six uncapped players in his 38-man squad: Alex Craig, Luke Crosbie, Tom Gordon, Nick Haining, Kyle Steyn and Ratu Tagive.
Influential scrum-half Greig Laidlaw has retired from Test duty.
Stuart Hogg. The Exeter full-back remains a hugely important and talented figure for Scotland. And more than that, he will lead his country as skipper for the first time during this Championship.
Hogg will captain his nation for the first time during this Champsionship
Hogg’s pace and creativity sets the tone for Scotland’s backline and his ability to carve open the opposition is a major asset for Townsend’s side.
- Six Nations since 2000: None.
- Overall: 15 titles outright (1887, 1889, 1891, 1895, 1901, 1903, 1904, 1907, 1925, 1929, 1933, 1938, 1984, 1990, 1999)
Scotland’s 38-man Six Nations 2020 squad
Forwards (21): Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Magnus Bradbury, Fraser Brown, Alex Craig, Luke Crosbie, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Cornell du Preez, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Tom Gordon, Jonny Gray, Nick Haining, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson.
Backs (17): Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg (c) George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Kyle Steyn, Ratu Tagive.