Season review for Scotland, Glasgow Warriors & Edinburgh

Greig Laidlaw
Greig Laidlaw celebrates after Scotland beat Ireland in the Six Nations, their first opening day win in 11 years

It's been a season of fluctuating emotions for Scottish rugby fans.

An encouraging autumn set Scotland up for their best Six Nations since 2006, although a record hammering at Twickenham took much of the gloss off an otherwise promising campaign.

Glasgow Warriors thrilled the Scotstoun faithful by reaching the knockout stages of the Champions Cup for the first time, but a sixth place finish in the Pro12 was a disappointing end to the Gregor Townsend era.

A sense of chaos never seemed far away from Edinburgh as they stumbled through another desperately underwhelming league campaign that yielded just six wins. And yet their run to the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup featured several stirring performances that hinted at what might have been.

Former internationals Rory Lawson and Peter Wright assess how Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland have fared this season.

Scotland

Victories over Argentina and Georgia and a narrow loss to Australia in the autumn Test series laid good foundations for a crack at the Six Nations.

A first opening day win in 11 years duly arrived against Ireland, a first win over Wales in a decade soon followed and the victory over Italy on the final day ensured the Scots achieved three tournament wins in a single campaign for the first time in since 2006.

There was frustration but no shame in losing narrowly to France in Paris. However, a record 61-21 thrashing at the hands of England seemed like a significant step backwards and perhaps loomed large in Warren Gatland's thinking as he selected only two Scots - Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour - in his initial British and Irish Lions squad for the tour of New Zealand.

Gregor Townsend, Vern Cotter
Gregor Townsend (left) takes over the Scotland job from Vern Cotter (right)

Following a fruitful spell in charge which saw Scotland reach their highest position of fifth in the world rankings, Vern Cotter has made way for Townsend, who will lead the summer tour which includes matches against Italy in Singapore, Australia in Sydney and Fiji in Suva.

How would you rate Scotland's season?

RL: "Positive. Three wins in the Six Nations was progress. The hammering at Twickenham put just a little bit of a sour finish on things when you're assessing at the end of the tournament.

"I think they can look back on this season with a lot of pride. Hearing people from England, Ireland and Wales talking about how good a side Scotland are now is encouraging. When it came to Lions selection a number of people were disappointed not to see more Scots."

PW: "They have improved and progressed. They got a good autumn international series under their belts and got a bit of confidence in their game. It was a pretty good Six Nations with three home wins.

Tommy Seymour

"Losing the England game would have been fair enough but the manner in which they lost put a little bit of a dampener on the international season. However, beating Ireland, beating Wales and beating Italy, relative to what we've done in the recent past, I think showed we are heading in the right direction."

Standout Scotland players

RL: "As back-to-back Six Nations player of the tournament Stuart Hogg has been rewarded with a Lions place. He was absolutely outstanding. A real killer instinct, x-factor and consistency that has everybody in world rugby aware of his stature and ability.

"Hamish Watson being in contention for Lions selection shows just how good a season he's had. He's been very impressive for Edinburgh but even more so in a Scotland jersey. Tommy Seymour's Lions selection is just reward for his excellent form."

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Hogg 'chuffed to bits' at Lions call-up

PW: "Huw Jones stepped up to the plate. For a guy that very few of us knew before he arrived he's performed well.

"Finn Russell is still growing in stature, he's got a long way to go but I think if he keeps progressing the way he is then in a couple of years he could be an absolutely outstanding, world-class player.

What needs to change?

RL: "Gregor will have a few more ideas up his sleeve about first phase backs strikes that he takes so much time looking at.

"He won't want to see Scotland capitulate the way they did at Twickenham ever again. He'll want to make sure there are structures in place to avoid that kind of thing happening."

PW: "I don't see a need for huge changes. Gregor will obviously want to stamp a few things on it that are synonymous with him but I think the style of play already works well.

"We do need to find a way to beat England and I think a lot of that is psychological."

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Six Nations 2017: Emotional Murrayfield farewell for Vern Cotter

Targets for next season

RL: "In the autumn they're going up against the world champions, the All Blacks. That's the kind of challenge that will be fantastic for Gregor and his squad, to match yourself against the best.

"Six Nations, you're looking again for three wins. They'll be aiming to win both home games which will be tough with England and France coming to Murrayfield. Three wins and anything more than that is huge progress."

PW: "Two out of three would be great in the autumn internationals. In the Six Nations I would be looking to win the two home games and to pick up an away win somewhere. Three wins out of five would again be a good return."

Glasgow Warriors

With major strides in Europe countered by inconsistency in the Pro12, assessing Glasgow is tricky.

Terrific home and away victories over last season's runners-up Racing 92 helped set-up a final day showdown with Pool One rivals Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup. Knowing they needed a win to advance to the last eight, Warriors produced arguably their greatest display to destroy the two-time champions 43-0 at Welford Road.

Their quarter-final bow was a bitter disappointment though, Townsend later admitting he had "over-prepared" his side before they were comprehensively beaten 38-13 by tournament winners Saracens.

Glasgow were unable to rouse themselves for a tilt at making the league play-offs, with a final day home defeat to Edinburgh not the send-off they had in mind after Townsend's highly-successful five-year spell in charge.

New Zealander Dave Rennie arrives from Super Rugby side The Chiefs to take over the reins at Scotstoun.

How would you rate Glasgow's season?

PW: "Pretty mixed. The Pro12 was disappointing. They didn't make the play-offs which would have been the least they would have expected to do.

Glasgow Pro12 record

"They had difficult games when they didn't have their full squad in autumn Test series and the Six Nations. When you're supplying 13 or 14 players to the national team you suffer big time during those periods. Their success in a way brought their own downfall this season.

"They had really successful European campaign with a really disappointing end. Overall, I'd say it was a fairly negative campaign for Glasgow compared to recent seasons."

Standout players

RL: "Ali Price has been impressive and really matured in a position where he's had to challenge co-captain Henry Pyrgos. He's really kicked on this season which has been great.

Ali Price
Scrum-half Ali Price was named Glasgow's player of the season

"Zander Fagerson has taken to international rugby and Champions Cup rugby incredibly comfortably and has looked very, very good."

PW: "Fraser Brown has stepped it up. The positive for Glasgow has been the number of young players coming through, the likes of Matt Fagerson, Scott Cummings and Matt Smith."

What needs to change?

RL: "They probably just need to strengthen in a couple of areas. The signing of Lelia Masaga just adds some more firepower and x-factor to that back-line.

"I'd like to see a slightly steelier edge from their forwards. There are occasions they need a slightly tougher mind-set."

Mark Bennett
Glasgow produced a wonderful display to thrash Leicester 43-0 to advance to the Champions Cup quarter-finals

PW: "They've got to add a little bit more depth to the squad. I think Dave Rennie has to carry on the same style of play, he would be mad to change too much at the start.

"They probably need another fly-half. They obviously have Finn Russell but I think they need another 10 that can step in and change things if it's not quite working. Adam Hastings is a young, promising player with potential, but that's all it is at the moment - potential."

Targets for next season

RL: "In the Champions Cup the quarter-finals should be minimum standard now. I'd like to think they can achieve that again and perhaps go one step further.

"They'll be looking for a more consistent league campaign. Glasgow are a top four side and they've got to get themselves back into contention next year."

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie
Dave Rennie has coached The Chiefs to two Super Rugby titles

Edinburgh

Many within Scottish rugby felt the one-year contract offered to Alan Solomons last summer to remain at Edinburgh was an extension too far and the veteran South African stepped down four games in after a lacklustre start to the campaign.

Duncan Hodge was thrown into the fray with a brief to steady the ship, but it's been a rocky spell for the rookie head coach. Edinburgh's season is probably best summed up by back-to-back fixtures in late October.

Alan Solomons, Duncan Hodge
Alan Solomons (left) departed in September and his inetrim replacement Duncan Hidge (right) struggled to revive Edinburgh's form

A thrilling 36-35 Challenge Cup victory over Harlequins at Murrayfield, full of attacking verve and ambition and no shortage of guts to see off their opponents, was followed six days later by a calamitous loss at home to Italian no-hopers Zebre.

The Challenge Cup run offered hope before being ended by La Rochelle at the quarter-final stage. A ninth-place finish ended Hodge's hopes of being given the big job permanently. He will revert to his previous role of attack coach as Richard Cockerill looks to inject some spark into an under-performing squad next term.

How would you rate Edinburgh's campaign?

PW: "The Pro12 has been a disaster. A real lack of consistency, poor style of play, a poor product for the fans under Alan Solomons. Duncan Hodge tried to change it to be a bit more positive but I think the players' confidence was shot.

BBC

"The European campaign was slightly better than the league campaign, although to be fair it couldn't be any worse. They've got huge issues at the moment. The last two wins over Dragons and Glasgow should hopefully give them a little bit of confidence building into next season."

RL: "Duncan Hodge was thrown in the deep end with a squad he inherited, they moved ground at the turn of the year to go to Myreseide - there were a lot of changes.

"There was also disruption caused by injuries to key guys, particularly Alasdair Dickinson and WP Nel, who are so important.

Edinburgh
Edinburgh slumped to a humiliating home defeat to Zebre in October

"They've become a bit of a cup team. They've got the ability to do well in the Challenge Cup, but they've just come up short again and they have to improve a lot next season."

Standout Edinburgh players

PW: "Hamish Watson and Ben Toolis have been their stick-outs. Damien Hoyland showed flashes at times. Blair Kinghorn had a reasonable start but then faded away and you could probably say that about a number of Edinburgh players."

Hamish Watson
Hamish Watson has been a shining light in a difficult season for Edinburgh

What needs to change?

RL: "There needs to be a harder edge in the forward pack. I'm sure Richard Cockerill will bring that. He'll set standards that may shock a few players.

"There needs to be a little more cutting edge behind the scrum. Robbie Fruean would be a really strong addition."

PW: "The big names - Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Phil Burleigh, Duncan Weir, Ross Ford - these guys need to step up a bit. They've been disappointing.

"If one coach can change a culture, a mind-set, I think Richard Cockerill is the man that can do it. If Cockerill can't change it, is there really any hope for Edinburgh? I think he's got a good chance, but they need to sign a couple of hard-edged backs."

Targets for next season

RL: "The standards have been good in Europe in the last few seasons. They need to look to make the knockout stages again.

"They've got to find some consistency in the Pro12 and look to be finishing in the top half next season."

Richard Cockerill enjoyed a trophy-laden spell in his time with Leicester Tigers
Richard Cockerill enjoyed a trophy-laden spell in his time with Leicester Tigers

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