Gregor Townsend’s Scotland will approach their showdown with France in ten days’ time knowing that now is the time to stand and deliver.
No doubt frustrated by defeat to Ireland at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, with Scotland third in the Championship table they are still very much in the hunt for a for a first title in the Guinness Six Nations era.
It will take a monumental effort and will have to start with a first victory in Paris for 20 years but Townsend’s side are a swashbuckling bunch and have just the enterprising game to trouble the French.
There have been plenty of positives to build on and many of the highlights have come from Scotland’s younger, or junior players in the squad, which we assess here.
THE FLYING SCOT
Coming into the Championship Scotland looked to have a settled side in many areas of the pitch and with many tried and trusted campaigners in their ranks – the likes of British & Irish Lions Greig Laidlaw, Tommy Seymour and Finn Russell.
But thus far the junior squad members have grabbed many of the headlines and none more so than Round One’s hat-trick hero Blair Kinghorn.
The first Guinness Six Nations Player of the Round this year, Kinghorn let his feet do the talking against Italy and starting from the bench in Round Two, Kinghorn was given an early introduction and produced another strong performance, displaying composure beyond his 22 years.
Kinghorn leads the way in terms of clean breaks (seven), metres made (191) and defenders beaten (11) across the Championship, and with Stuart Hogg likely to miss out in Paris through injury we’re likely to see a lot more of the youngster.
“Blair obviously had a great game against Italy,” Townsend said. “He backed that up with his first touch as he got through the Ireland defence on Saturday and was heavily involved in the second half.”
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
At 25 centre Sam Johnson isn’t one of the youngest members of Townsend’s squad but he does provide yet another example of one of the newer members in Scotland’s ranks producing the biggest impact.
And what an impact Johnson has had thus far, making his international splash in style against Italy in Round One.
The Glasgow Warrior didn’t score against the Azzurri but produced a standout all-round performance, tackling and passing with aplomb while beating six defenders with ball in hand.
And Johnson didn’t have to wait long for his first international try as he struck in the 28th minute against Ireland amidst another composed performance.
Townsend has the likes of more experienced centres Chris Harris and Pete Horne available to him, but looks to have found a gem in fledgling international Johnson.
A YOUTHFUL STEP FORWARD
Scotland are not short of experienced campaigners in their pack but once again it has thus far been their younger players who have been driving them forwards.
At 22 Jamie Ritchie has just eight caps to his name but already looks a player set to grace Rugby’s Greatest Championship for many years to come.
The Edinburgh back rower is enjoying a superb campaign with his club and has stepped that up into the Championship with two all-court displays.
Ritchie caught the eye with a break against Italy that led to Kinghorn’s hat-trick score and has been a bundle of energy across the opening matches, making three turnovers and a whopping 40 tackles already.
It’s also worth noting that Jonny Gray, still somehow only 24, returned to the side with an impactful 25 tackles against Ireland as Scotland’s younger players spearhead their Championship challenge.