World Rugby

Scotland: Guinness Six Nations Preview - Russell Razzle Dazzle

Scotland: Guinness Six Nations Preview - Russell Razzle Dazzle

Explore Scotland's rugby journey in the Six Nations and World Cup, focusing on key player Finn Russell, and their quest to overcome challenges and rivals.

Jan 28, 2024
Scotland: Guinness Six Nations Preview - Russell Razzle Dazzle

Over the last few seasons Scotland has been a side that promised a lot, yet never has fully delivered to its full capacity.

We’ve been waiting a while for Scotland to challenge for the Six Nations title, and following their early exit from the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the pressure laid on this crop of Scottish players – arguably their most talented group ever – is quickly growing.

Last Time Out

Scotland opened its last Six Nations campaign in historic fashion, beating England at Twickenham in front of a packed house to retain the Calcutta Cup, before consolidating that result with a battering of Wales in Round 2.

It marked the first time Scotland had ever opened the Six Nations with two wins from two. Those newfound heights was the peak of their tournament, however, as Scotland proceeded to lose to Ireland and France – giving a strong account of themselves in both matches – finishing a respectable third in the table.

Carried by its performance against England, Scotland headed into the World Cup with quiet confidence, but knew it faced an uphill task, if escaping from the group of death was to happen. 

For a half of rugby, they put pressure on South Africa, only for the game to fall away in the second 40. Then, in a must-win final game, Scotland was outplayed by a ruthless Ireland outfit and dumped out of the competition.

Key Player 

Finn Russell, Fly-Half

For years Scotland has relied upon the excellence of Finn Russell. From his fearlessness in bringing the ball to the line, to his game-changing miss-passes, the fly-half long has been the orchestrator of everything in attack.

His performance against Wales last year was a reminder of this, as Russell whipped out gorgeous cross-field kicks and out-the-back offloads to dent Welsh hearts.

Anyone doubting Russell's impact need only look at the complete turnaround that has taken place at Bath this season, since the Scottish playmaker joined the club in the summer.

In the space of a few months, the West Country outfit has gone from Premiership strugglers to title contenders.

He’s now also co-captaining Scotland alongside Rory Darge, who publicly admitted he was surprised to be given such responsibility, which indicates it’s Russell who’ll do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to player motivation and leadership on the field.

It has been the case for years, but when Russell plays well, Scotland plays well. When he’s subdued, Scotland struggles, which is why he remains pivotal to their chances in the Six Nations.

Potential Breakthrough Star

Josh Bayliss, Back Row

With five Scotland caps to his name, Josh Bayliss isn’t a new face in the Scotland setup, but he’s making a long-awaited return following a serious knee injury in the autumn.

Bayliss last featured for Scotland in the summer in a warm-up match against France and only played six minutes.

But now he’s back, and even though there’s a lot of competition for starting shirts, with Jamie Ritchie, Rory Darge and Matt Fagerson among the competition, he should stand a chance.

Not only is Bayliss a big tackler with a presence at the ruck, he’s surprisingly nimble in attack and can help stretch defensive lines in a way that perfectly suits the style of Finn Russell.

Toughest Fixture 

Unsurprisingly, Scotland’s toughest fixtures will be against the two primary outfits in the competition – Ireland and France.

But of the two, they’ll be desperate for a win against the reigning champions after Andy Farrell’s side knocked Scotland out of the World Cup.

The revenge tour will not be easy, as even with Johnny Sexton out of the picture, Ireland’s squad is littered with stars who’ll be lining up to start for the Lions next summer.

More concerningly for Scotland, the numbers make for a stark reading when predicting the upcoming tie in 2024. 

Scotland's last win over Ireland was in 2017 – they’ve lost nine times against the men in green since then.

Tournament Outlook 

While Wales and England are going through relative rebuilds, Scotland’s core of players remains pretty much the same as before.

That means the expectations placed on the team will be higher, with an emphasis on succeeding now and building a belief within the side that they can beat all five other nations.

After finishing third last year, Gregor Townsend will want his side to continue improving, which means they’ll need to beat either Ireland or France to break into the top 2. 

It’s a tough ask, but that’s the expectation for this Scotland side if they are to prove they can compete with the very best.

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