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Analysis: Nel provides platform for Russell and co

Analysis: Nel provides platform for Russell and co
  • Scotland tighthead has been excellent in the scrum against France and Georgia
  • Russell pulled the strings in fine attacking performance
  • Scotland have one more match against Georgia before heading to Japan

There were reasons for optimism all over the pitch for Gregor Townsend in Tbilisi, but perhaps no area will have pleased him more than the performance of the Scotland scrum.

There is arguably no tougher test at scrum-time than against the Georgians, so much so that Eddie Jones has had his England side training against the Lelos in each of the past two Guinness Six Nations.

Montpellier loosehead Mikheil Nariashvili is probably the biggest Georgian weapon and provided a real test for WP Nel.

The Edinburgh prop impressed last week against France, earning a couple of key penalties and putting pressure on the visitors’ scrum as Scotland were able to overturn an early deficit.

And his battle with Nariashvili was another hard-fought affair, Nel getting the nudge early on and Nariashvili getting his own back later in the half.

Overall it was a fairly even result, both teams winning 100 per cent of their scrums on their own put-in, while conceding the odd penalty on opposition ball.

Combine that with the display against France in Edinburgh and it has been a strong week for Townsend’s men up front.

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With the forwards impressing against two powerful packs, that gave the three-quarters the platform to thrive, and they did just that.

While both of last week’s tries against France came from turnovers inside the opposition 22, Saturday saw a number of scores created from much further out.

Finn Russell was at the heart of everything good in the 44-10 success, probing away at the Georgian defensive line, both with ball in hand, and when he spotted a space, with clever grubber kicks.

It was his break that eventually ended with Ben Toolis going over for a first Test try, while a kick set up Rory Hutchinson to do the same.

And in the second half he was right on the money with a slick grubber for Darcy Graham as the Georgian defensive line rushed up to put on the pressure.

As he showed during the Guinness Six Nations, Russell has the distribution and the vision to create chances even when faced with a rush defence.

Scotland have one more chance to hone those combinations ahead of the World Cup as they welcome Georgia back to Edinburgh in the return fixture.

Whatever happens in that game though, Townsend knows that he has a rock of a tighthead to build his pack around, opening up the space for Russell and the three-quarters to flourish.