Six Nations Preview: Scotland

Head Coach: Vern Cotter

Stadium: BT Murrayfield (Capacity: 67,800)

Captain: Greig Laidlaw

IRB World Ranking: 7th

Last Season: 4th

Prediction: 3rd

Scotland are a much changed outfit to the one that used to try and avoid the wooden spoon and that is mainly down to the influence of new head coach and former Clermont Auvergne guru Vern Cotter.

The autumn was another tough one for Scotland once again losing narrowly to Australia, much like the World Cup fiasco and to lose by one point against a team that ran riot against Wales was not a bad effort.

They followed this with a three point victory over Argentina and then they ran riot against Georgia clinching a 43-16 win in their final autumn test. Not a bad November for Scotland.

The pack is strong and does the basics extraordinarily well, the scrum for Scotland is a very positive area and that was shown against Argentina in a formidable performance.

Scotland could mount a serious challenge this year and look the most in form northern hemisphere team bar England and Ireland who are a cut above this season.

Jonny Gray is becoming an all singing, all dancing lock and he is real leader for Scotland on the field. Also a top line out option and providing some ballast at the scrum.hogg

In the backs there is the sensational fullback, Stuart Hogg, a counter attacking nightmare, he tears defences open with his fast feet and agile reflexes. His kicking game is also just one more trick to terrorise the opposition’s backfield cover players.

Scotland have the luxury of three home games this year, they come against Italy, Ireland and Wales. Two of those games should be Scotland’s for the taking. Italy and Wales won’t hold much fear for Scotland. Away trips to Paris and London will always be tough.

Cotter knows how good his team is and the fact they have three home games will breed confidence in the camp. If they play like they know they can that tie against Ireland and the trip to London could be interesting propositions.

Fixtures

v Ireland, BT Murrayfield, 14:25, Saturday 4th February

v France, Stade de France, 15:00, Sunday 12th February

v Wales, BT Murrayfield, 14:25, Saturday 25th February

v England, Twickenham Stadium, 16:00, Saturday 11th March

v Italy, BT Murrayfield, 12:30, Saturday 18th March

My Scotland XV

1 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh) 2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh) 3 WP Nel (Edinburgh) 4 Richie Gray (Toulouse) 5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow) 6 John Barclay (Scarlets) 7 John Hardie (Edinburgh) 8 Josh Strauss (Glasgow)

9 Greig Laidlaw (Captain, Gloucester) 10 Finn Russell (Glasgow) 11 Sean Maitland (Saracens) 12 Duncan Taylor (Saracens) 13 Huw Jones (Stormers) 14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow) 15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow)

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Aviva Premiership Preview: Worcester Warriors

Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Carl Hogg

Captain: Gerrit-Jan van Velze

Stadium: Sixways (Capacity: 12,024)

Last Season: 10th

Prediction: Relegation

Worcester they have never been the team to set the league alight but always look as though they are building a squad something that Dean Ryan was working towards.

Worcester have some serious firepower in the backs Biggs and Vuna two gifted winger with pace and for the most part bravery. Cooper Vuna is deadly and Biggs eye for the line is unmatched.

Rugby Union - Greene King Championship - Worcester Warriors v Bristol - Saturday 25th April 2015 - Sixways Stadium - Worcester

Vuna in action for Worcester.

Worcester have no expectation and with Ryan leaving a lot of people are not expecting much from this Worcester side but I think they could surprise a few and take some big scalps this season.

The back row is an area of strength for this club, Mama, Potgieter, van Velze, Kirwan, Dowson these names know the Premiership, they know how hard they have to work. It will be interesting to see how they function.

THREE TO WATCH

Francois Hougaard

Position: Scrum-Half/ Wing  Nationality: South African  Age: 28  Height: 1.81m  Weight: 94kg

The deadly scrum-half is a worthwhile addition, his pace is remarkable and he has the ability to carve open defences with his shift in gear that allows him to burn defenders on the outside.

He also has a great ability to pass and open spaces for his playmakers in the midfield, a really exciting new face at the Sixways.

Ben Te’o

Position: Centre  Nationality: New Zealander (English qualified)  Age: 29  Height: 1.88m Weight: 106kg

The cross code convert made some serious noise at Leinster and he is an effective crash ball carrier in the middle of the park and his carrying is that sets him apart.

TEO

Te’o training with England.

He can take the ball to the line causing all sorts of problems for opposition defences all over the pitch.

Cooper Vuna

Position: Wing  Nationality: Tongan  Age: 29  Height: 1.80m  Weight: 110kg

A deadly winger who Worcester rely on to find the line. His blistering pace and electric feet make him one of the most deadly finishers in the Premiership.

Vuna is sure to be a key part of Worcester’s Premiership campaign this season due to his attacking brilliance.

TRANSFERS

IN (9)

Biyi Alo (Saracens, ENG)

Alafoti Fa’osiliva (Bath Rugby, ENG)

Francois Hougaard (South Africa Sevens, SAF)

Marco Mama (Bristol Rugby, ENG)

Dewald Potgieter (Yamaha Jubilo, JAP)

Will Spencer (Bath Rugby, ENG)

Ben Te’o (Leinster, IRE)

Matt Williams (Northampton Saints, ENG)

Jackson Willison (Grenoble, FRA)

OUT (13)

Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier (Nevers, FRA)

Ravai Fatiaki (Released, REL)

Dan George (Released, REL)

Matt Gilbert (Hartpury College RFC, ENG)

Alex Grove (Birmingham Moseley, ENG)

Charlie Mulchrone (Harlequins, ENG)

Darren O’Shea (Munster, IRE)

Joe Rees (Rotherham Titans, ENG)

Dan Sanderson (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)

Sam Smith (Retired, RET)

Ben Sowrey (Newcastle Falcons, ENG)

Heath Stevens (London Welsh, ENG)

Andy Symons (Gloucester Rugby, ENG)

Hougaard and Te’o show real intent and ambition from Worcester and will improve them massively the recruitment of Potgieter and Mama bolsters the back row.

HOUGAARD

Hougaard scores a try for the Springboks.

Mulchrone will be a miss and Symons effective midfield presence could hurt them.

My Worcester Warriors 23

15 Chris Pennell 14 Cooper Vuna 13 Wynand Olivier 12 Ben Te’o 11 Tom Biggs 10 Tom Heathcote 9 Francois Hougaard

1 Nick Schonert 2 Niall Annett 3 James Johnston 4 Tevita Cavubati 5 Donncha O’Callaghan 6 Dewald Potgieter 7 Marco Mama 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze (Captain)

16 Jaba Bregvadze 17 Val Rapava-Ruskin 18 Na’ama Leleimalefaga 19 Will Spencer 20 Alafoti Fa’osiliva 21 Jonny Arr 22 Ryan Mills 23 Bryce Heem

Worcester will not expecting trophies and relegation could be looming for Carl Hogg’s side.