THE Scotland squad will head to Valencia on Spain’s south-eastern coast for a mini-camp during the week leading up to their Six Nations opener against Ireland, flying out of Edinburgh on Sunday 26th January and then straight to Dublin on Thursday 30th January, before playing the game on Saturday 1st February.
Pre-tournament camps outside the country ahead of World Cups are now common practice for the Scotland team, but it is the first time this has happened before a Six Nations campaign. However, England, Ireland and Wales have all headed to sunnier climes in recent years in order to bring the squad together, escape external distractions and also train outdoors in decent conditions at the start of what will inevitably be a gruelling seven-week period.
The Scotland coaching team will be hoping that this move helps the team to hit the ground running in the face of a formidable start to the championship, which sees them visit Ireland first then host England at Murrayfield seven days later.
Scotland have a poor away record and starting the tournament on the road to an Ireland team who have a new head coach in Andy Farrell and are smarting from what they consider to be a disappointing World Cup campaign is fraught with danger. The last time Scotland won in Ireland was in 2010 (at Croke Park) and the last time they won at the Aviva Stadium (aka Lansdowne Road) was in 1998. They have managed only one win in the last eight meetings between the two sides.
England, meanwhile, will be desperate to reproduce the form they showed in the quarter and semi-finals of the World Cup as they seek to avenge their defeat at Murrayfield in 2018 and that crazy draw at Twickenham last year – when the ‘Red Roses’ seemed to be out of sight at half-time before being reeled back in by an audacious Scottish fightback.
While there doesn’t appear to have been a formal review of Scotland’s disappointing World Cup campaign, the coaching and wider management team have inevitably poured over the whole experience to take on board any lessons that could be learned – although it is not clear how much involvement Jim Mallinder (who was appointed Director of Rugby last August but has not yet been released from his RFU contract) had in that.
This camp does not appear to be a direct response to Scotland’s World Cup disappointment, rather an attempt by the coaching team to leave no stone unturned as they aim to make sure the team is as fresh and sharp as possible heading into the championship.