Scotland’s strategy allows for plenty of freedom and creativity, and this can produce some interesting results when they come up against the more structure-obsessed sides in the 6 Nations. Here we will present Scotland’s strengths under Gregor Townsend, and also the areas of their game that could cause their downfall. Let’s find out if Scotland can finally break their 20-year drought to win an upset 6 Nations title.

Their 1-3-3-1 model

Here Scotland’s underlying attacking structure is visible. They crash with their first pod of 3 forwards and then use Russell to distribute to the second pod (the first 3 players with yellow circles).

Scotland set up their 1-3-3-1
Scotland set up their 1-3-3-1

The fourth forward circled in yellow is the 1 of the 1-3-3-1. This player is used to stretch the opposition, which is critical to Scotland’s gameplan. So far Scotland hasn’t strayed at all from the Standard 1-3-3-1 attacking gameplan. England also uses forwards to stretch the opposition, and Ireland also uses a distributor to connect the pods. The difference in philosophy only becomes apparent during the next phase below.

Scotland's play becomes more free once the structure has played out
Scotland play with more freedom once the structure has played out

If this was Ireland, they wouldn’t go past the 15m line and would set up to move back in-field. But Scotland is a risk-taking side that loves to keep the ball alive and create broken play they can exploit. The truth is, they are not very comfortable staying in a structure for very long, and this is why it is their 1-3-3-1 model. The players are free to break from the system and use their skills, especially in the wide channels.

This structure could be seen as a strength or weakness depending on the situation. But there is one aspect of the game that is undeniably a strength for Scotland. Their strike moves.

Scotland’s strengths | inventive strike moves

Here Scotland uses 3 dummy runners to keep defenders occupied.

Scotland strengths include their beautiful strike moves
Scotland strengths include their beautiful strike moves

Notice the two lines of attack at the start of this play. They both work together to create plenty of moving parts and put Seymour away in the corner. Using two lines of attack is something England use a variation of as well, and you can read about that below.

Why England’s Tactics are Different to Every Other 6 Nations Side

Here again, Scotland uses a move that requires an Oscar-winning performance from their line-out jumpers. Watson (yellow circle) exploits the resulting gap and scores.

Scotland's clever line out maneuver has echoes of the All Blacks play in the 2011 world cup final
Scotland’s clever line out manoeuvre has echoes of the All Blacks play in the 2011 world cup final

Scotland makes this look easy, but there are plenty of moving parts. These strike plays are one of Scotland’s strengths and could give them an edge in close 6 Nations tests. The final strength we will discuss brings all of this together and makes it work.

Scotland’s strengths | an uber-talented backline

There are several attacking players in Scotland’s backline that have the potential to turn any game on its head. Here’s Stuart Hogg using a kick return to set up an eventual try.

Hogg forces defenders to backtrack
Hogg forces defenders to backtrack

Scotland thrives on broken play because they have players suited to playing this way. After Hogg gives Scotland the advantage back with this run, they use hard and straight running to set up a try.

Scotland use hard, straight running to set up a try
Scotland use hard, straight running to set up a try

After touches and runs from multiple talented players, Seymour scores in the corner. This exemplifies the gameplan the Scots are suited for.

Seymour scores off the back of seriously skilful play
Seymour scores off the back of some seriously skilful play

Another player of note is Huw Jones, who makes a great break from his own try-line here.

Huw Jones makes a break from a seemingly impossible position
Huw Jones makes a break from a seemingly impossible position

Unfortunately, this is where some of Scotland’s weaknesses start to creep into their game.

The weakness of Scotland’s model

Giving players the freedom to make decisions has benefits and drawbacks. Right after the Huw Jones break, Scotland is in a good attacking position. However, Russel gets impatient and tries a risky kick that doesn’t pay off on this occasion.

Finn Russel gives away a good position
Finn Russel gives away a good position

Russel (yellow circle) kicks it straight back to the Springboks, undoing all the positive build-up play.

All of Scotland's good work is undone
All of Scotland’s good work is undone

Here again, Scotland’s decision making lets them down.

Horne doesn't let the pass go
Horne doesn’t let the pass go

Horne just needs to let the ball go, but the culture of freedom causes hesitation for a millisecond as he considers his options. A certain try is reduced to nothing.

Scotland’s more risky philosophy could cause their performances to go either way in the 6 Nations. How far they go will depend on how their talented players perform in each game, and which strike play tricks Gregor Townsend has in his Arsenal.

The 1014 Rugby has previewed the 6 Nations over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.

Can Scotland overcome their decision making weaknesses to win the 6 Nations? Let us know your thoughts.

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