Six Nations: Scotland eager to ‘kick on’ at Rugby World Cup as promising signs noticed by coach John Dalziel

John Dalziel at Scotland training Credit: Alamy
John Dalziel at Scotland training Credit: Alamy

Scotland forwards coach John Dalziel believes his squad can take plenty of confidence from their Six Nations campaign into this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Dalziel believes their showings in defeat to France and Ireland should give the side even more encouragement than their victories over England and Wales.

Scotland opened this year’s Six Nations with back-to-back wins over the English and Welsh but have lost out to the French and Irish over recent weekends.

Growing as a team

Despite those defeats, Dalziel insists they are showing “clear progression” and he believes that will translate into a strong 2023 World Cup challenge.

“I don’t think there’s been a Six Nations where we’ve had the world number one and two in it,” he said. “To have them back-to-back, I think we’ve shown where we are as a group.

“In that France game, with the adversity we had in terms of losing Grant Gilchrist (to a red card), to fight our way back into control in that game, that shows the growth in where we are and the respect we rightly get from our opposition.

“We’ve not seen that side of us where we fall into old habits and get blown away by teams.

“We’ve been competitive against all these teams and we’re more pleased about how we’re progressing against the likes of France and Ireland than the wins we had at the start because they’re the wins we should have been getting for the last three years, against England and Wales.

“We want to test ourselves against the best teams and push from being fifth (in the Six Nations) to get further up.

“We did enough in the game on Sunday. If we could have had another 10 minutes of being a bit more accurate in two or three areas at the weekend, we’d have been desperately disappointed if we didn’t win that game.

“Whether they’re world number one or not, we know we did enough in that game to be competitive. There are areas we need to be better in to get anything off Ireland at the World Cup but I think there’s clear progression in the group, you see that every day in training.”

Dalziel has had a front row seat to Scotland’s performances and mentality, both on and off the field, and revealed he’s been impressed with the players.

“I feel as a coach, there seems to be a shift in the group, a maturity,” he said. “We’re training, acting and behaving like a completely different team and there’s a confidence level.

“I think there’s more to come. The group are in a good position, we want to finish the Six Nations on a high against Italy and we want to kick on at the World Cup. The biggest growth we’ll get as coaches is in that World Cup cycle.

“We’ll be able to imprint a lot more of our print on the group through that period because it’s a very unique thing you get in a World Cup cycle.”

Key duo ruled out

However, Scotland will end their Six Nations push without key duo Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg, who are both sidelined, with Richie Gray in a fitness race.

“We’d like to think Richie will be able to train tomorrow (Wednesday), then we’ll make a decision on him,” said Dalziel. “It certainly looks a lot better than when he came off on Sunday.

“Finn and Hoggy have been huge players for us and have played so well in this championship but injuries come with the business. They will go back to their clubs to be scanned and assessed properly – we’re hoping it will be nothing majorly long-term.

“Italy had casualties in their games as well, it’s part of the game. But we’ve got a really good depth in the squad that we’ve taken the opportunity in previous campaigns to develop. There are guys who deserve an opportunity that will come in.”

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