Scotland need big performance to restore faith

Scotland need big performance to restore faith

Scotland were beaten 16-15 by Australia in their first autumn Test
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh Date: saturday november 5 To start up: 13:00 GMT
Cover: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said on Thursday his side needed to “deliver winning performances”, starting on Saturday against Fiji.

It seems like an obvious thing for any manager to say, but Scotland desperately need not just a win, but a real performance at Murrayfield.

Last weekend’s loss to Australia – with players based outside of Scotland being warned about unavailability – did little to restore confidence in the travel management. national team in 2022.

They have played nine Test matches and lost six, with the All Blacks and their summer conquerors Argentina set to follow Fiji this month.

Townsend this week spoke of the “positives” of the one-point loss to the Wallabies, just as he had of the summer series loss at the hands of Michael Cheika’s Pumas.

This is not a view shared by everyone outside the camp. Those of Murrayfield last week spoke of a strangely hushed atmosphere, while Saturday’s match against Fiji has not yet sold out.

For several years the Scottish Rugby Union relied on the fact that the old ground was filled more or less with every match. A train strike, spending in the current cost-of-living climate and an earlier 13:00 GMT kick-off no doubt played their part in unsold seats, but there was certainly a dip in enthusiasm .

That’s the awkward background before we even get to the controversial omission of fan favorite and playmaker Finn Russell, whose magic has been key to many of Scotland’s most exhilarating moments of late.

His shadow will hang over the fall campaign if things don’t improve.

Adam Hastings was handed the number 10 shirt this week, ending Blair Kinghorn’s five game run at the opener and although most people would say the Edinburgh man has done a decent job he still seems that something is missing.

Townsend struggled to stress when his fall squad was told that Hastings’ form for Gloucester was fantastic. The Scotland manager added this week that he brings more in terms of game management than Kinghorn, who, as a full-back by trade, is naturally more of a runner.

This is the control that Scotland demands.

They have plenty of attacking talent to hurt teams, and still do sometimes, but too often crucial chances are missed. Sione Tuipulotu was the latest player guilty of squandering a try-scoring opportunity against the Wallabies, but there have been many others. We need more calm.

At the other end, the Scottish defense is too often challenged – they are conceding on average nearly 21 points per game this year – and discipline has become a serious problem.

Scotland allowed 14 penalties against Australia last week, averaging 12 per game in the Six Nations. This is clearly not the recipe for success.

The Scottish XV selected for the visit to Fiji is about as strong as Townsend has been able to field since the spring, and that must be reflected in the performance and the result.

Hastings is in fine form and has solid center pairing from Cameron Redpath and Chris Harris on the outside of him. They play together in midfield for the first time since that famous victory at Twickenham in 2021.

Duhan van der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg are powerful defenders, and there’s enough abrasiveness in the field – in Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and others – to make an impact.

They’re a solid team taking on an incredibly talented Fijian side, but a Scotland have beaten six of the eight times they’ve faced them in a test match.

Scotland should win, but they need more than just a win. They need a sense of identity and on the pitch to restore confidence – especially if the intention is to move forward without Russell.

Under Townsend, Scotland’s best triumphs have either come through Racing 92’s fly-half who helped orchestrate swashbuckling attacking play – witnessed in the 2018 win over England at Murrayfield – or thanks to a miserly defense.

The 2020 and 2021 Six Nations were the culmination of this latter approach. But right now the team feels far from either. Against Fiji, they have a chance to assert themselves and show what kind of team they want to bring forward.

If they don’t, the “increasing pressure” former captain John Barclay spoke about this week, will only grow.

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