Andy Nicol preview: Robinson has good reason to be cheerful

Andy Robinson and captain Rory Lawson celebrate Scotland's victory over South Africa in November

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to ghost-write a column for BBC expert, RBS ambassador and Scotland legend Andy Nicol looking ahead to the RBS 6 Nations. Here is what he had to say.

Scotland are on a very good run at the moment with five victories out of six games.

Sometimes statistics can lie depending on the quality of the opposition, but when those six include Ireland away, Argentina away twice, New Zealand, South Africa and Samoa it is safe to call it a very good run.

There was the draw with England in the game before Ireland so in seven games against top quality opposition we’ve won five and drawn one. It is a very, very good run of form and probably the best we have seen for a good number of years.

What has been the secret of this success? Good players, good coaches and the combination of them coming together.

Andy Robinson has made a huge difference, but all good coaches need good players and Scotland have got a good crop at the moment.

When everybody is fully fit and have played well or regularly then Scotland can match most teams, which is down to a combination of a lot of things.

Understanding a game plan and executing it is important, as is not trying to be something they are not.
The one criticism people will level at Scotland is that in the five victories they have not scored a huge number of tries.

However, they have won the games and I would argue that Scottish supporters would rather win games by kicking penalties than lose games by scoring three tries.

There is certainly not one factor to why we have not been running in tries of late. Defences are very good these days and you have got to play your strengths and capabilities.

Dan Parks, who is the key playmaker at stand-off, has got a world-class kicking game and has done very well at making Scotland play in different parts of the pitch and then they execute the game plan from that.

I would say in certain games, particularly in the first Test against Argentina, a lot of the penalties that we got were desperation penalties from the Argentina defence which was in disarray.

If Scotland had recycled the ball one more time then a number of tries could have occurred, so sometimes it is not just down to their ability, it is down to the discipline of the opposition.

If you look on paper at the likes of Max Evans, Sean Lamont and Graeme Morrison there is ability there to unlock defences, which Glasgow have shown on a regular basis.

Scotland have the players so maybe they are lacking a little bit of confidence. It is amazing what one or two tries early in the championship could do to confidence.

Players and supporters will also be boosted by the outstanding form of Mr Consistent – John Barclay.
I have been pushing him for a number of years now and saw something in his first cap at the World Cup in 2007 which was against Richie McCaw and New Zealand, where Scotland played a second 15 basically to save some of the top team for the key game in that group which was Italy.

John went toe-to-toe as a youngster against the best player in that position in the world – and maybe the best player in the world in any position – but came out McCaw’s equal. That says something about him.

With the squad looking so good, the clashes at Murrayfield against Wales, Italy and Ireland are all winnable.
Scotland have always been a bit reticent of backing them in the past but when you look at the run of form we have been in then I think we should be a bit bullish and say ‘you know what, we should win our home games’.

Now ‘should be’ winning them and winning them are obviously two vastly different situations and a lot of things will have to happen for that to occur.

And one thing above all else is that Scotland will have to play well because if we do not we will not win international rugby matches, unlike some other nations.

As ever in the Six Nations, though, it is all about momentum and getting off to a good start.
In that regard Scotland have a very difficult challenge going to Paris for the first game and I think key for that is performance.

I think Scotland can get a lot out of this game without necessarily winning it because it is a big ask. Playing the reigning Grand Slam champions at their place is as tough as it gets.

But if Scotland can do a lot of good things and in certain circumstances Scotland can win that game.
After the Paris game, Scotland have two games against Wales and Ireland and I would like to think we would be in a positive win-loss ratio after three games.

That is a big step forward for Scotland because winning consistently is not something we’ve done recently.


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