Scotland’s scrum will have to produce their best performance of the Six Nations if they are to upset France in their match at Murrayfield on Saturday, former Scotland lock Nathan Hines said.
The Scotland pack have proved the Achilles heel of the team this season, providing little ball for their backs to do something with, especially against England, where they were humiliated 20-0 at Murrayfield.
However, Australia-born Hines, who was capped 77 times by his adopted country, said that based on the resolute performance in their last outing — a nailbiting 21-20 win over Italy in Rome — there was some hope for Scotland and not just because of France’s woeful away form, which has seen them fail to win in two years since winning in Edinburgh.
“The win over Italy confirmed the impression Scotland made in their first game against Ireland [a 28-6 defeat],” said Hines, who is in his final season with French giants Clermont before moving to English club Sale.
“They did well initially and held their own, but then cracked in the face of the Irish pack,” he said.
“The Scottish team have a young three-quarter line, still gaining in experience and therefore liable to be exposed. The biggest problems, though, are in the scrum which does not make any yardage and loses one in two lineouts,” Hines added.
“Scotland needs the ball so it can express itself. It will be the scrum that decides the match against France. If we correct this area then we can pose the French all sorts of problems,” he said.
Hines, who has previously played in France for Perpignan before joining Irish province Leinster, with whom he won the 2011 European Cup, said he felt Scotland are in about the same position as France as they prepare for next year’s World Cup: Still searching for the best formula and mix of players.
However, he said while the arrival of his present club coach Vern Cotter as head coach of Scotland, replacing Scott Johnson at the end of the season, would have a positive impact, the World Cup might come too soon in terms of seeing an upturn in results.
“When you are a player, this transitional period is always complicated,” Hines said. “Certain players will have their eye on the future, when the priority is to focus on what happens now.”
“The arrival of Vern [Cotter] risks turning things upside down. He will bring with him a rigorous approach and ask a lot more of the players. He will force them to pose questions about themselves and what they have been doing before,” Hines said.
“When something is working he will tell you it is, but he will also do so when it isn’t, but it is important to have a coach that talks to you frankly. The federation did not make a mistake in hiring him,” he added.
“Maybe the World Cup will come too early for the results to be seen, but I think that by the 2016 Six Nations, Scotland will be a force to be reckoned with,” Hines said.