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Comment: Cotter keeps Scotland on an upward curve

Former Scotland head coach Vern Cotter will return to Murrayfield for Montpellier's European tie against Edinburgh.
Former Scotland head coach Vern Cotter will return to Murrayfield for Montpellier's European tie against Edinburgh.

One thing we clearly know now about Vern Cotter – the big man’s a true professional.

Six games from the end of his tenure as Scotland head coach, he has a now a better than even chance of being the first man to walk away from the job since Jim Telfer in 1999 with a positive ledger.

There could easily have been a relaxing of the very gradual but clear progressive path Scotland have taken since the whitewash of 2015, subconsciously or otherwise.

Cotter, of course, has been ditched by the SRU for Gregor Townsend from June next year. He has fallen softly from that blow and will be the highest-paid coach in rugby when he joins Montpellier instead. Still, it was hardly an action from Murrayfield that would inspire a conscientious final stretch in the Scotland job.

In addition, Cotter and his coaching team went into this Autumn Series without the twin lynchpins of the scrum, WP Nel and Ali Dickinson, without the guy many thought Scotland’s player of the Six Nations, Duncan Taylor, and without either of the specialist No 8s available to him, David Denton and Josh Strauss.

He lost John Hardie, thought indispensable since he came into the side at the World Cup, after barely 40 minutes of action.

Yet the performances against Australia and Argentina without these key personnel have shown the Scots still inching on an upward curve.

This young autumn players like Huw Jones, Zander Fagerson, Allan Dell, Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury have been successfully blooded against high calibre opposition.

We’d have been watching behind our fingers just a couple of years ago if a third of the team had such little international experience; of that quintet only Watson was considered a halfway serious contender for a cap just 12 months ago.

Composure under pressure is still an issue, but Saturday’s success should go a long way toward solving that.

It could all go horribly wrong against Georgia, of course, no-one’s idea of a pushover. They remind me very much of the abrasive Italian teams that sucked Scotland into an arm-wrestle throughout much of the noughties.

But under Cotter, since that 2015 spring campaign, there have been none of those regular, galling setbacks. And looking forward, I suspect the feeling the SRU have been hasty about letting the Kiwi go at the end of this season will grow arms and legs.

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