One of the questions emerging from the autumn internationals is: Have Scotland gone forwards, backwards or stayed still since their tour to South Africa in the summer?
It’s a very difficult question to answer. A return of one win from three isn’t great although it’s one better than this time last year, when Scotland reached an all-time low in losing to Tonga in Aberdeen.
The fall-out from that was the resignation of coach Andy Robinson and the start of Scott Johnson’s reign.
Since then, Johnson can claim a few highs, such as the third place in the 6 Nations, but such claims are made on pretty shaky foundations.
During the course of the autumn internationals, Johnson chopped and changed his squad and combinations.
There appeared to be little rhyme or reason to these changes. Nor did they really address some of the squad’s fundamental shortcomings.
Johnson’s biggest selection headache must be fly-half.
Ruaridh Jackson didn’t shine when given the chance, despite his good form at Glasgow.
His understudy there, Duncan Weir did a little better but still looked like a good club player rather than an international fly-half.
The latter is composed and makes the right tactical decisions 95 times out of 100. Even simple decisions like when and where to kick aren’t executed well at the moment by the Scottish 10s. It’s a shame Tom Heathcote wasn’t given a chance.
I also think Johnson messed around too much with his forwards.
Young locks Tim Swinson, Grant Gilchrist and Johnny Gray outshone their more experienced colleagues and look fine prospects for the future, but hooker has become a problem.
Ross Ford is struggling with the new scrummaging laws and his throwing-in is almost becoming a liability.
Most disappointing was the lack of basic skills. Scotland could have beaten Australia if Maitland had made a two-on-one overlap with a pass to Sean Lamont.
Streetwise sides and teams with experienced leaders know how to close out games look at the All Blacks defeat of Ireland last Sunday.
Scotland need to develop this capability fast.
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