Scotland have hope against France if scrum improves, says Nathan Hines
The Scottish scrum will have to produce their best performance of the Six Nations if they are to upset France in their match at Murrayfield on Saturday, former Scotland lock Nathan Hines said.
The Scotland pack have proved the team's Achilles heel this season, providing little ball for their backs to do anything with, especially against England, when they were humiliated 20-0 at Murrayfield.
However, Australia-born Hines, who was capped 77 times by his adopted country, said that based on the resolute performance in their last outing - a nail-biting 21-20 win over Italy in Rome - there was some hope for Scotland and not just because of France's woeful away form.
"The win over Italy confirmed the impression Scotland made in their first game against Ireland [a 28-6 defeat]," said Hines, who is in his final season with French giants Clermont before moving to English club Sale. "They did well initially and held their own but then cracked in the face of the Irish pack. The Scottish team have a young three-quarter line, still gaining in experience and therefore liable to be exposed.
"The biggest problems, though, are in the scrum, which does not make any yardage and loses one in two lineouts. Scotland needs the ball to express itself. It will be the scrum that decides the match against France."
Hines, who previously played in France, for Perpignan, before joining Irish province Leinster, with whom he won the 2011 European Cup, said he felt the Scots were in about the same position as the French as both teams approach the 2015 World Cup still searching for the best formula and mix of players.
However, he said that while the arrival of his present club coach, Vern Cotter, as Scotland's head coach, replacing Scott Johnson, at the end of the season would have a positive impact, the World Cup might come too soon.
"When you are a player, this transitional period is always complicated," said Hines. "The arrival of Vern risks turning things upside down. He will bring with him a rigorous approach, and ask a lot more of the players. He will force them to pose questions about themselves and what they have been doing before.
"When something is working he will tell you it is, but he will also do so when it isn't.
"Maybe the World Cup will come too early for the results to be seen but I think that by the 2016 Six Nations Scotland will be a force to be reckoned with."