World Rugby

State Of The Nation: Where Scotland Stands After Two Six Nations Matches

State Of The Nation: Where Scotland Stands After Two Six Nations Matches

At its best, Scotland looks unplayable and at a world-beating level. At its worst, Scotland looks like a shell of itself spiraling out of control mid-match.

Feb 17, 2024 by Briar Napier
State Of The Nation: Where Scotland Stands After Two Six Nations Matches

Scottish rugby fans, while watching their national team in this year’s Six Nations, probably feel like they’re viewing a live-action version of the “Why can’t you just be normal?” meme.

At its best, Scotland looks unplayable and at a world-beating level. At its worst, Scotland looks like a shell of itself, which can fall apart and spiral out of control mid-match.

Both extreme versions of Scotland can, and will, happen in the same game, making the Scots frustrating to watch, as their talent throughout the squad is apparent. 

The silver lining for Scotland fans, however, is that this year’s tournament still very much has the capability of being one of Scotland's best performances in the Six Nations era — if the best version of Scotland shows up. 

And playing with fire in the Six Nations, as Scotland’s already learned this year, can get you burned.

Here’s a look at where Scotland stands after two Six Nations matches. The competition returns to play next weekend.


If rugby union matches were 40 minutes long, Scotland would look just about unstoppable right now.

But two good halves often are needed to win a rugby match, and Scotland — so far — hasn’t shown that it’s able to string together two excellent periods. 

With Round 1 being a trip to face Wales in Cardiff (a city where Scotland hadn’t previously won since 2002), coach Gregor Townsend’s men did break the 22-year streak of no Scottish wins in the city with a pulsating 27-26 win, but they almost blew it in spectacularly bad fashion.

Ahead 20-0 at halftime (its biggest lead after 40 minutes against Wales in 100 years) and seemingly on its way to a barnstorming statement victory by leading as much as 27-0, Scotland instead imploded in the latter stages, getting complacent, while a fiery, young Welsh side didn’t give up. 

It was a win for Scotland at the always-daunting Millennium Stadium, sure, but it was an alarming performance, all things considered. Much of the same old song and dance happened in Round 2 against France at Murrayfield, too. 

Once again, the Scots looked to be firmly in control for much of the game, as an off-the-pace Les Bleus fell behind 13-3 in the second half, but Scotland once again failed to get the job done with authority and allowed France to get back into the match. 

A late Louis Bielle-Biarrey try and conversion (plus an extra penalty) got France ahead by a 20-16 margin late, and though Scotland does have a right to argue that Sam Skinner’s last-minute dive over the line — for what would’ve been a match-winning try — was grounded and should’ve been confirmed on TMO review, it shouldn’t have even been in that position to begin with. 

It was a frustrating but also weirdly optimistic first two Six Nations weekends from Scotland, to say the least.

What’s Ahead

Somehow, even with how topsy-turvy the Scots have played over the past two weekends, their hopes for what would be their first title in the Six Nations era (since 2000) are alive and have a road toward potentially coming to fruition. 

The always-tense match against England looms in Round 3, of which Scotland — which will host at Murrayfield — actually enters the fixture with three consecutive wins against its southern neighbor and will be looking for four straight victories against the English for the first time since 1970-1972. 

A win in that match would get Scotland most likely to second place in the table ahead of Round 4’s fixture against lowly Italy in Rome. The Scots hold a 13-match winning streak in their series against the Italians, and that match will be followed by a titanic matchup at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland. 

Scotland still has a lot to do before it can get to the point in which it’s playing for a Six Nations title, but there is a path to Round 5 turning into a winner-take-all showdown against the powerful Irish, who have looked spectacular through two rounds, coming through with back-to-back drubbings of France and Italy. 

It’s important for Scotland not to get too ahead of itself with the exciting squad it has, but as evidenced by its first two matches in this year’s Six Nations, that’s been a major sticking point for improvement. Still, on its day, Scotland is as talented as any team in the competition and can take anyone to the brink. 

Which Scotland squad arrives, and when, during each matchweek, however, is the burning question. 

Keys To Success

It’s obvious, but it needs to be reiterated: Scotland can’t just be clinical for 40-60 minutes per match. A consistent full 80 is what’s needed to thrive in the Six Nations, and Scotland has the names and firepower to pull it off. 

Many consider Scottish rugby to be amid a “golden generation” of talent, as the likes of fly-half Finn Russell, back-rower Rory Darge, centers Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones and winger Duhan van der Merwe — among several others — all are excellent players either in, or approaching, the primes of their careers. 

So far, all that hype hasn’t led to much hardware. 

A strong start with back-to-back victories to open the 2023 Six Nations eventually fell flat, as Scotland failed to beat either France or Ireland en route to a third-place finish, and though it always was going to be an uphill battle to get out of Pool B — the so-called “Pool of Death” — at last year’s Rugby World Cup with South Africa and Ireland also in the mix, losses to both saw the Scots miss out on the knockout rounds. 

Windows of opportunity can close quickly, and Scotland’s two performances to open this year’s Six Nations haven’t indicated that it’s a team on a mission from the opening kick to the final whistle. 

Moments of brilliance have happened — much of Scotland’s first half against Wales was absolutely stunning, for instance — but letting the foot off of the gas pedal has been a vice for the Scots, and with its title hopes still hanging in the balance, they must seize the opportunity soon. 

Townsend was an integral part of Scotland’s Five Nations-winning squad as a player in 1999. As the national team’s coach a quarter-century later, can he help lead his country to glory in the competition once again?