Six Nations 2022: Can generational Scotland forge a serious title challenge?

Townsend’s side are a match for anyone on their day but silverware remains elusive

Scotland

Last year: 4th

Odds for the title: 10-1

The 2021 Six Nations saw Scotland earn landmark wins away to both England and France - as well as a rout of Italy at Murrayfield - and yet they still had to settle for fourth place in the Championship.

For this generational band of Scots, turning these famous days into a serious title challenge is the acid test - but unfortunately for them, this year’s tournament is being touted as the most competitive ever.

That said, the visiting English will hold no fear on the opening weekend - Murrayfield will be ready for the Auld Enemy. Performances in the autumn, including a 15-13 win over Australia, were also promising - nobody will be looking forward to facing Gregor Townsend’s side.

The coach

Gregor Townsend is heading into his fifth Six Nations in charge of Scotland, and his side have won three of their five matches, in three of his four campaigns to date. However, they are yet to finish higher than third under the former Lion - doing so this year looks like big ask given the recent form of France and Ireland.

But there is plenty to be positive about. Scotland now have serious strength in depth to complement A-list names like Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Hamish Watson. Townsend will know his side’s campaign is likely to live or die on the opening round visit of England - win that and they will travel to Cardiff a week later with the wind in their sails.

The key man

Townsend the player had many similarities with the mercurial Finn Russell - and it is to Scotland’s benefit Townsend the coach has mended his once fractured relationship with the Racing 92 outhalf.

One of the best playmakers in the world, Russell has the full skillset at 10, and while his brand of rugby can be high risk the rewards have increased as he has matured as a player. Now 29-years-old and with 57 caps to his name - as well as Top 14 and European experience in Paris - Russell is in his prime.

His vision and imagination make him one of the best 10s to watch in rugby - his potential match up with England’s Marcus Smith in round one will be fascinating.

The one to watch

As international debuts go, helping Scotland to a win over England at Twickenham will take some beating. However, Cameron Redpath’s excellent 80 minute showing in last year’s 11-6 win in London remains his only Scottish appearance to date.

The 22-year-old centre, who represented England at Under-20 level, has since been dogged by injuries including rupturing knee ligaments playing for Bath against former club Sale in May. He has made three appearances for Bath since returning to fitness, and while competition in the Scottish midfield is fierce, Townsend might find it hard to resist pitching him in at 12 alongside Chris Harris against England.

After all, he has a 100 per cent record to maintain.

Fixtures

Saturday February 5th, Scotland v England, Murrayfield (4.45pm)

Saturday February 12th, Wales v Scotland, Millennium Stadium (2.15pm)

Saturday February 26th, Scotland v France, Murrayfield (2.15pm)

Saturday March 12th, Italy v Scotland, Stadio Olimpico (2.15pm)

Saturday March 19th, Ireland v Scotland, Aviva Stadium (4.45pm)

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