Scotland quietly gathering momentum

Yahoo! Contributor Network

The media focus of the first two rounds of the 2013 RBS Six Nations has been reasonably broad: England's growing grand slam bid; Wales' turnaround in form; France's woeful ineptitude; Ireland's injury issues. Even Italy made the headlines in the first week.

The only team that hasn't been making media waves, it would seem, is that perennial underdog north of the border: Scotland. Whilst Wales' transformation from lacklustre losers against Ireland to confident conquerors of France was impressive, Scotland's turnaround is arguably more so.

In week one their performance lacked aggression; they allowed England time on the ball and looked very tired by the end of the game. The following week against Italy they were a different beast; in the face of their opponents, never allowing them a moment to settle. They were clinical in attack, not something that has been said about Scotland for many a year.

And this was not the Italy of old; this is the Italy who were coming off the back of their best ever performance in the Six Nations, a thoroughly well-deserved win against France. It was a most impressive performance.

Where they used to lack depth, there is now an encouraging production line of players waiting in each position. In the second row Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton compliment each other superbly, the latter's close-quarters aggression allowing the former to roam around the field in that familiar rangy style. And if one of them gets injured there is the dependable Al Kellock to come off the bench.

In the back-row Johnnie Beattie has come back into the international fold and excelled, all elbows and knees in barnstorming bursts over the gain-line. Young Dave Denton, a star of last year's competition, bides his time on the bench. Also in the back-row, Alasdair Strokosch's replacement Rob Harley performed with aplomb on his first start in a Scotland shirt.

In the backs, they have arguably the most devastating back three of the tournament. Stuart Hogg has scorched the turf with his searing pace, scoring two tries in as many games so far, while Tim Visser has that healthiest of knacks: a nose for the try-line. And then you have the enigma that is Sean Maitland: the kiwi with a Scottish dad who turned up in Glasgow at the beginning of the season and has since lit up the RaboDirect Pro12. There is more to come from him, you sense.

At half-back there are still issues to be ironed out, but the step-up in quality of performance of Greig Laidlaw and Ruaridh Jackson last weekend was probably the most pleasing part of the win. They must kick-on and back that performance up with more of the same.

With an injury-plagued Ireland and troubled Wales team to come at Murrayfield, before a trip to Paris to face a French team in meltdown, there is cause for optimism for Scotland fans - a state of affairs they are not accustomed to. For now though the team will be happy to carry on going about their business quietly, away from the spotlight. It is how they do it best.

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