Scotland started their Guinness Six Nations campaign in style in 2023, with a Calcutta Cup victory at Twickenham and a record win against Wales seeing them win their opening two matches of a campaign for the first time. France and Ireland would bring them back down to earth before finishing on a high against Italy, although even then they threatened to throw that match away in the dying minutes, before going coast to coast to seal victory and round out their Championship in style.

It meant they won three matches in a campaign for the fifth time in seven years, a tally that is now par for the course for this Scottish side, but was once a rare occurrence, having managed it just once in their initial 17 campaigns (2006).

Gregor Townsend’s side went to the Rugby World Cup later in the year full of confidence but knew that just getting out of their pool would be a monumental task, needing to beat either the reigning – and eventual – champions, or the number one ranked team in the world to get to the knockouts.

It wasn’t to be for Scotland and the manner in which they were defeated with reasonable ease by both South Africa and Ireland will have been disappointing. So, how will they respond in 2024?

Playing Style

Under Townsend, Scotland have been one of the most effective teams at moving the ball wide. That’s no surprise given they have the likes of Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham on the wings. In last year’s Six Nations they moved the ball wide more than any other team, moving it at least 20 metres sideways from the previous ruck on 14% of their phases. In fact, overall in 2023, of the 20 teams to participate in the World Cup, only Portugal (16.0%) moved it wider more often during the calendar year than Scotland (15.7%).

Strengths and Weaknesses

Although Scotland love to attack wide and can be ruthless when they’re given time and space to go through the gears, a lot of their best performances have been built upon a solid defensive foundation. They made more tackles than any other side in the Six Nations last year (831) and despite the high volume of tackles they still maintained the best tackle success rate of any team (92%). That’s not just a recent trend either – they’ve had the best tackle success rate in three of the last four editions of the Championship.

Scotland Six Nations Team Preview - tackle success

It’s a sign of how much Scotland have improved over the tenure of the last two head coaches that they don’t really have any glaring weaknesses. If they were to identify an area from 2023 to improve on though, the lineout might be one of them, with only Wales (85.1%) recording a fractionally worse success rate in last year’s Six Nations (85.3%).

Scotland also struggled to slow down the opposition breakdown in last year’s tournament, with opponents averaging a ruck speed of 3.2 seconds against them, the quickest rate against any nation. A good tackle success rate is important, but if your defensive line doesn’t have enough time to reset, eventually the cracks will appear. Against quality Test opposition one missed tackle can be the difference between winning and losing.

Star Players

Where else do you start than with the “Messi of rugby” Finn Russell? Although very much a tongue-in-cheek comment from the Scotland No. 10, there are certain characteristics he shares with the Argentinian magician, in particular his vision and ability to identify and exploit space. Over the last two years, no Tier 1 player has assisted as many line breaks as Russell, putting a teammate through the defensive line with his incisive passing on 19 occasions, while he’s made a joint-high 15 try assists in that same period (level with Antoine Dupont). Meanwhile, four of the Scot’s try assists in that spell have come via kicks. Lionel would be proud…

Another star of the Scotland team is undoubtedly Duhan van der Merwe, who has enjoyed life in the Six Nations since making his tournament debut in the final round of the 2020 campaign. He’s played all five matches in an edition of the Six Nations on two occasions so far; in 2021 – when he beat 31 defenders in total, breaking Brian O’Driscoll’s record for a single campaign which had lasted over 20 years – and in 2023, when he surpassed it by beating 35 defenders. We have a feeling he just might break it again this year.

Scotland Six Nations 2024 Fixtures:

3 February: Wales v Scotland – Principality Stadium, Cardiff

10 February: Scotland v France – Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

24 February: Scotland v England – Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

9 March: Italy v Scotland – Stadio Olimpico, Rome

16 March: Ireland v Scotland – Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Scotland Six Nations Squad (as of 30 January):


Ewan Ashman – Edinburgh Rugby (12)
Josh Bayliss – Bath Rugby (5)
Jamie Bhatti – Glasgow Warriors (34)
Andy Christie – Saracens (4)
Luke Crosbie – Edinburgh Rugby (7)
Scott Cummings – Glasgow Warriors (33)
Jack Dempsey – Glasgow Warriors (15)
Rory Darge – Glasgow Warriors (15) (co-captain)
Grant Gilchrist – Edinburgh Rugby (68)
Richie Gray – Glasgow Warriors (78)
Matt Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors (40)
Zander Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors (62)
Alec Hepburn – Exeter Chiefs (uncapped)
Johnny Matthews – Glasgow Warriors (1)
Jamie Ritchie – Edinburgh Rugby (46)
Pierre Schoeman – Edinburgh Rugby (26)
Javan Sebastian – Edinburgh Rugby (7)
Sam Skinner – Edinburgh Rugby (30)
George Turner – Glasgow Warriors (40)
Glen Young – Edinburgh Rugby (3)


Ben Healy – Edinburgh Rugby (4)
George Horne – Glasgow Warriors (26)
Rory Hutchinson – Northampton Saints (8)
Huw Jones – Glasgow Warriors (43)
Blair Kinghorn – Toulouse (50)
Ross McCann –
Stafford McDowall – Glasgow Warriors  (1)
Harry Paterson – Edinburgh Rugby (uncapped)
Ali Price – Edinburgh Rugby (66)
Cameron Redpath – Bath Rugby (9)
Arron Reed – Sale Sharks (uncapped)
Kyle Rowe – Glasgow Warriors (1)
Finn Russell – Bath Rugby (75) (co-captain)
Kyle Steyn – Glasgow Warriors (15)
Ross Thompson – Glasgow Warriors (3)
Sione Tuipulotu – Glasgow Warriors (22)
Duhan van der Merwe – Edinburgh Rugby (34)
Ben White – Toulon (18)

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