Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

State of the na­tion

Signs of hope. Head coach Vern Cot­ter will leave his role and head to France soon af­ter the tour­na­ment and he leaves Scot­land in a far bet­ter place than he found it. Scot­land are now com­pet­i­tive, re­gard­less of the op­po­si­tion, and the soul­sap­ping drub­bings of re­cent years are be­ing slowly erad­i­cated from mem­ory. The tac­i­turn Kiwi prefers sub­stance over style, but al­lows the side to ex­press them­selves. Stu­art Hogg (left). The out­stand­ing Scot­tish player of the past decade, the full-back seems to pos­sess a dizzy­ing ar­ray of skills. He’s light­ning quick, has a siege-gun boot and boasts a fierce com­pet­i­tive zeal. Sim­ply, he’s Scot­land’s match win­ner and a cer­tainty to tour with the Lions in the sum­mer. If he spots half a gap, just watch the Borderer go. With Glas­gow fi­nally break­ing into Europe’s elite do­mes­ti­cally, there’s no need for any Scot­tish player to be gripped by an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex. With gifted play­ers such as Jonny Gray, Finn Rus­sell and cap­tain Greig Laid­law, they have enough hard-earned grit to pros­per. Whis­per it, but hope abounds that Scot­land are on the brink of some­thing spe­cial.

What to ex­pect

At 6ft 2in and 15 stone, he is quite a pres­ence on the wing, but man­ages to play with a Gal­lic panache many find ir­re­sistible.

If France can lo­cate their mojo early on, they might well give their An­glo-saxon friends a bloody nose at Twick­en­ham. In­fin­itely more likely is a win over Scot­land in Paris the fol­low­ing week­end. For all their joie de vivre out wide, they will need thun­der­ing No 8 Louis Pi­camoles and in­dus­tri­ous cap­tain Guil­hem Guirado at their in­flu­en­tial best.

What to ex­pect

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