Columnist Stuart Rutherford is quietly confident about Scotland rugby team’s future as we head into 2017:
There never seems to be too much middle ground when it comes to Scottish supporters’ feelings on the national side.
From my experience, our emotions are either in a permanent state of disappointment or jubilance, with nothing in between.
However, something felt different as Vern Cotter’s side closed out the Autumn Tests with a convincing win against Georgia. As the team did their traditional lap of honour around the stadium, applauding those supporters who had chosen to brave the cold a little longer in order to show their appreciation, there was a distinct sense of contentment and satisfaction in the air.
Scotland did exactly what was expected of them.
When the fixtures were announced for the Autumn Tests, I think the large majority of level-headed supporters would of realistically set a target of two wins out of three. Georgia was a game that Scotland were expected to win comfortably.
Argentina were an unknown quantity in that they had dramatically improved since our last meeting, however, it was still a game that Scotland were favourited to win.
Whilst Australia was always going to be a tall order considering the Wallabies strength and depth across the board. With this is mind, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Scotland’s two wins, alongside a rise to seventh in the world rankings, has the feeling of ‘mission accomplished’.
Wins and losses aside, what will have undoubtably brought delight to both the supporters and Vern Cotter has been the development of Scotland’s younger players.
Alan Dell and Zander Fagerson were both thrown in at the deep end against a vastly more experienced Australian front row and both emerged unscathed. Magnus Bradbury made his debut against Argentina and was impressive in both defence and in the loose.
Whilst Hamish Watson was able to seamlessly transfer his stirring club performances to the national stage and should continue to do so come February’s 6 Nations. However, the unquestionable star in the making was Huw Jones.
Scotland looked to have unearthed a gem as the Stormers’ centre kick started his international career with two tries and an assist before leaving the Argentina clash with a foot injury.
Although it was Scotland’s debutants and youthful pack that stole the large share of the headlines throughout the series, the unrivalled player of the Autumn Tests was Jonny Gray.
At the age of 22, I could of very easily mentioned him as one of Scotland’s up-and-coming stars, however, with 28 caps to his name, Gray has become one of Scotland’s most respected leaders.
The Glasgow Warriors’ lock was an absolute monster in both defence and at the breakdown, having not missed a tackle in over 750 minutes of test rugby. Although a crowded position, many believe Gray to be a lock for next summer’s Lions Tour and it’s hard to argue against considering his recent form.
Heading into the 6 Nations, Scotland and it’s supporters have every right to be optimistic.
We may still lack depth in certain positions – such as stand-off and hooker – and perhaps rely on the boot of Laidlaw a bit too regularly, however, the emergence of future stars plus an exciting back line as we’ve had in decades will leave supporters feeling quietly confident about the months to come.
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