Scotland’s victory over Italy was the culmination of their hard work under Vern Cotter, but it will mean little without a victory over France.
Under Vern Cotter, Scotland have steadily transformed into one of the most exciting teams in Europe, and showed they are more than capable of holding their own at the top table after narrowly missing out on a World Cup semi final spot thanks to a somewhat controversial last minute penalty against Australia.
Unfortunately, Scotland haven’t been able to back this up in the Six Nations where they have recorded just one win in 10 attempts (this weekends victory over Italy). For any team, that is a record to be frankly ashamed of, however for a side who will be hoping to go at least one better than last years World Cup quarter final in 2019, this is shameful.
The future however looks very bright for Scotland. They have a host of young stars in the current team, and are starting to build strength in depth in some key areas (the battle for a spot in the midfield will be very tight indeed). The victory over Italy this weekend will also act as a huge boost to the team who now know they can win games in the Six Nations.
Their next clash against France at Murrayfield will give them a true reflection of whether their progress is however. Despite being the biggest basket case in European rugby, the French still remain a threat and have proven they can eke out victories in the tightest of situations like they did against Ireland. They have however also shown that they are there for the taking as Italy so nearly managed in Paris on the opening weekend.
Scotland must therefore head into their clash with Les Bleus believing that anything other than a victory is a failure on their part. They have their best opportunity in years to claim victory over the French and must now prove they are capable of beating teams other than Italy. Victory over France would also put them in a position where they can seriously push for a top three finish given Ireland’s struggles in recent weeks.
A loss however would likely see them finish in fifth once more and show there has been no progress since the World Cup. This would be an absolute travesty given the huge leap forward they seemed to take during 2015 and could just begin to hamper some of the optimism that has been surrounding Scottish rugby over the past 6 months.
Victory in two weeks time however would show real progression and could well give the team the confidence to go on and challenge Ireland on the final day of the Six Nations. This may go someway to atoning for the embarrassing way Scotland went down in the final round of action this time last year as they capitulated at the hands of the eventual winners.
However, should they lose their next two games, the World Cup run will appear in vein and leave a dark cloud hanging over the side as they prepare for their tour in Japan this summer where there is a real risk they could find themselves humbled by a side who put the Springboks to the sword at the World Cup.