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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
After touches and runs from multiple talented players, Seymour scores in the corner. This exemplifies the gameplan the Scots are suited for.
Another player of note is Huw Jones, who makes a great break from his own try-line here.
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.
Russel (yellow circle) kicks it straight back to the Springboks, undoing all the positive build-up play.
Here again, Scotland’s decision making lets them down.
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.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes