Scotland come into the 2018 6 Nations ranked at a career high of 5th in the official World Rankings, and on a blistering run of form after a wonderful set of performances in the Autumn Internationals. With many predicting that Scotland will now be contesting for the title, we ask; can they continue this run and back up these claims?
Scotland fans will have mixed feelings. Solid performances in the Autumn Internationals have come and gone before, with little of the Autumn form being reflected in improved 6 Nations results. Will this year be any different?
It is hard to say. Scotland have some difficult fixtures this year, with three away games (Wales, Ireland and Italy) and two home (France and England).
Our algorithm gives Scotland:
- two relatively easy wins – home against France and away against Italy,
- one definite loss – away to Ireland,
- two close games – away to Wales and home against England.
Therefore, depending on the outcome of the close games, this could be a very successful tournament for Scotland, or a fairly disappointing one. Beating Wales and England would give Scotland huge confidence and could be the start of their long threatened arrival as a respected rugby power but, lose those two games, even narrowly, and it would be another case of the nearlies for the Scots.
Momentum is very important in the 6 Nations, and Scotland will be more aware of this than most. Having only twice won their opening fixture in 6 Nations history means that the Scots have always been fighting from behind in the tournament. Indeed when, in 2017, they recorded that second opening fixture win (against Ireland) it continued on into their most successful 6 Nations for several years. This year’s opening fixture against Wales takes on special significance then.
Unfortunately for the Scots, their run in Wales doesn’t make pleasant reading. With only one win in Cardiff in 6 Nations history, and that back in 2002, means that history is really stacked against them. However, Scotland have steadily been improving over the past few years and Wales haven’t enjoyed the best run, so can the Scots topple the Welsh and hit the ground running in this years 6 Nations?
It’s going to be tight. Wales are predicted to win narrowly in Cardiff but, when the predictions are this close, it really is all to play for. Should Scotland beat the Welsh on the opening weekend then their 6 Nations will really open up. They should beat the French at home in Murrayfield the following weekend (perhaps not by as much as is being suggested) and, with the knowledge that they still have a likely win over Italy to come, they should approach the English and Irish fixtures with renewed confidence.
However, lose to Wales on the opening weekend and suddenly these fixtures may take on an air of desperation in looking for that elusive third win to climb the table. Indeed, should Scotland win their opening fixture against Wales then their chances of finishing top two doubles from 22% to 44%.
All to play for – game on.