The news that Scotland will be without captain Greig Laidlaw for the rest of the Six Nations is undoubtedly a big blow. He has been one of the central figures in their recent resurgence under head coach Vern Cotter, and is now world famous for his consistently accurate goal kicking and ice cool decision making under pressure. He led his nation to that famous win over Ireland in the opening game of this year’s Six Nations but was then injured against France, as Scotland succumbed to a narrow loss. They did hold on to a losing bonus point, but that will be little consolation for a team that knew a win in Paris would really put them on the rugby map. They may or may not have won had Laidlaw remained on the pitch, but the ankle ligament injury he sustained was sufficient to rule him out of the rest of the tournament – a major blow.
However one man’s loss is another’s opportunity and Glasgow’s Ali Price looks to be in the hot seat to start at scrum half against Wales at Murrayfield on February 25th. Henry Pyrgos will also be in the running but the harsh reality is that somebody will have to replace Laidlaw as the goal kicker. And the whole team will have to take the responsibility for replacing their injured captain’s calmness under pressure and replicating his decision making all around the park. It’s possible a more attacking scrum half will add to Scotland’s armoury, but the likelihood is that injury will expose Scotland’s lack of strength in depth compared to a giant rugby nation like England. Either way it’s likely that Scotland v Wales will be another highly entertaining match between two teams loaded with talent and passion but lacking in top class cover in all positions. Injuries are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the modern game, and success in the Six Nations often depends as much on how well teams react to the loss of key players throughout the tournament as it does the strength of their original squads on paper.