Scotland threatening to lay waste to a season and a head coach's job
“This is a golden opportunity that awaits them on Sunday,” wrote Tom English in the Scotsman. “Ireland are missing so many players that Scotland should feel mortified if they don’t put them away.”
Either side of Hogg, Scotland suddenly possess players capable of putting any team away. The SRU have cleverly recruited a pair of natural-born wingers in the naturalised Dutchman Tim Visser and New Zealand-born Seán Maitland. Both would be established internationals if not for a simple twist of faith: their birth places.
Maitland has been electric for the Canterbury Crusaders these past two seasons, while Visser reigns supreme in the PRO12 try-scoring charts, instantly transferring his prolific ways to the Test arena with fives touchdowns in seven starts. Maitland bagged a try on his debut at Twickenham.
More reasons to be optimistic? They have a pack of mongrels that would make Jim Telfer swoon. In English forward guru Dean Ryan – on loan from Sky Sports for the tournament – they’ve unearthed an honest voice, both publicly and privately, with hard-nosed values. Telfer without the insane aggression.
“No doubt about it, we’ve moulded into a big pack that has won more possession and territory for a long time, just not been able to convert into tries” Jeffrey continued.
“The ironic thing is this season we’ve scored six tries but had the worse possession in both games by quite a long way. That’s the bizarre anomaly of it.”
Unlike Ireland, injuries have not been a major problem as even Alasdair Strokosch’s loss opened the gate for Rob Harley to bring his secondrow frame to the blindside. Harley is nuisance at the breakdown and while it’s too soon to compare, he operates in the same annoying manner as Jeffrey. Dogged and unafraid.
Jim Hamilton, at 30 years old, has also realised his 6ft 8in, 19st body is best used to enforce and cause trouble. Number eight Johnnie Beattie has entered the realms of world-class status since moving to Montpellier, while Kelly Brown and Richie Gray are living up to their lofty reputations.
Granted, the loss of Euan Murray, on religious grounds, evens up the frontrow scrap with Cian Healy suspended.
“You are never as great as you think you are but you are never as poor as other people think you are,” said Jeffrey. “And let’s not kid ourselves, we lost all three games in November and we were beaten by England.
“We beat Italy and all of a sudden we are a great team? I disagree with that but at the same time I disagree that we are a poor team. There have been some real highs. And lows. Last year we got the wooden spoon, went on tour and were the most successful Northern Hemisphere team winning all three Tests down south.
“Since the autumn Tests we’ve had a change in coach and started playing a different type of rugby against England, scored two tries, but still well beaten. But we were competitive. Against Italy they played very well and scored four tries.