BEFORE we offer a heartfelt ‘Goodbye and don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out’ to 2020, it is worth recalling that there have been a few positive stories in Scottish rugby this year. More than a few, in fact.

Club rugby and Super6 have been in limbo since March, but in each of our four designated professional teams, players have either emerged from relative obscurity or reasserted themselves after long periods of adversity. Some coaches, too, have come into their own, notably with the two national sides. Here, then, in no particular order, is our list of 10 individuals who have inspired us over the past 12 months and given us cause to be optimistic about 2021 when it comes.

RORY SUTHERLAND The Edinburgh loosehead is now so firmly established as Scotland’s first choice that it seems scarcely conceivable that when the year began he had not been capped since the summer of 2016. A long-term injury was the primary reason for that lengthy hiatus, but Sutherland fought back through a mixture of diligence, determination and no small amount of natural talent. He certainly made up for lost time when he got his chance, and ended up playing for Gregor Townsend’s side in all nine Tests this year.

Still only 26, he rounded off 2020 on a high as well, playing a pivotal role in Edinburgh’s comeback win over Sale last weekend. It was a display that led BT Sport analyst David Flatman, the former England prop, to suggest the Hawick man was sure to be in the Lions squad for next summer’s tour to South Africa.

SCOTT CUMMINGS Like Sutherland, the Glasgow lock has taken a commanding grip on his place in the Scotland team with relative rapidity. The 24-year-old only made his debut in last year’s World Cup warm-up game against France, but is now inked in as the second-row partner for his former Warriors team-mate Jonny Gray.

RACHEL MALCOLM Injured on her first start for Scotland in 2017 while playing at hooker, the Loughborough Lightning openside had to bide her time before first getting to play in her established position and then becoming established as captain. Although she first led the side in 2018, it was only last season, after spells with Lisa Thomson and Helen Nelson in charge, that Malcolm settled into the role. Her maturity, consistency and composure should ensure she stays there for some time.

RACHEL SHANKLAND While Malcolm has nearly a score of caps now, her namesake Shankland has just one so far - from an unforgettable Six Nations game at Scotstoun against France. It is certain not to be her last. Chosen to add greater physicality to the Scotland back three, the Stirling County winger did precisely that, scoring the try that inspired the team to a 13-13 draw after they had looked down and out at 13-3.

BRYAN EASSON The man who selected Shankland for that game against French merits recognition too. After a time as assistant coach to Philip Doyle, Easson took over as interim head coach in the summer when the Irishman’s contract ended early for Covid-related reasons. Scotland had struggled in their early Six Nations games, losing narrowly in Dublin then heavily at home to England, but the former stand-off quickly restored their self-belief and deserves to have his appointment made permanent.

LEE JONES After being sidelined for 22 months because of a succession of injuries, the Glasgow winger made his comeback at the end of last month. In the midst of what is shaping up to be a very trying season for the Warriors, Jones is in effect a valuable new signing for them - someone who can inject fresh impetus and enthusiasm into a squad that has at times looked low on morale.

NATHAN CHAMBERLAIN Shooting to prominence in the spring thanks to a hat-trick against Wales in the Under-20s Six Nations that included a Russellesque chip and chase for the second try, the stand-off has gone on to make some impressively assured performances for Edinburgh, often in adverse circumstances. He has been used sparingly so far by head coach Richard Cockerill, understandably when new Scotland cap Jaco van der Walt is available, but he has shown - most notably in the 18-0 win over Cardiff- that he clearly has the talent needed to make a major impact in the years to come.

JACK BLAIN Like his team-mate Chamberlain, the winger has so far made only a handful of appearances for Edinburgh but has got up to speed quickly. Unfazed when he had to play out of position at full-back, more recently he has been back on the wing, where his eye for an opening has been evident.

STEVE TANDY The Welshman took over as Scotland’s defence coach at the tail-end of last year, and the national side has since benefited considerably. “The turnaround has been incredible”, was the verdict of former national captain John Barclay after this autumn’s Six Nations win over Wales.

PIETER DE VILLIERS No member of a coaching team can be viewed in isolation, and in addition to Tandy, ex-France prop De Villiers has made a considerable contribution to Scotland’s post-World-Cup recovery this year. An assistant coach specialising in the scrum, his technical expertise has been invaluable in helping bring the best out of players such as Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson.