Rugby correspondent Simon Thomas profiles the former schoolteacher who is earning Scotland top marks once again
THE remarkable revival in Scotland's fortunes can be explained in just two words - Frank Hadden.
The man himself would no doubt contest that assessment, insisting that others have played a significant part in the turnaround.
But the evidence is there for all to see and it's pretty irrefutable.
Last season, under Aussie coach Matt Williams, the Scots were a shambles, their darkest hour coming when they conceded 46 points at home to Wales.
This season, they have given the All Blacks a real run for their money and launched their Six Nations campaign by defeating pre-tournament favourites France.
Yet it's exactly the same group of players.
The only thing that's changed is the coach - but what a significant change it's been.
Under their new boss, the Scots are a team transformed and heading for Cardiff with a real belief that they can add Wales' scalp to that of France.
So just who is Frank Hadden and what's the secret to his success?
Born and educated in Dundee, he went on to Strathclyde University and then Carnegie School of Physical Education in Leeds to pursue a teaching career.
As a player, he didn't exactly set the world alight, with the closest thing to a claim to fame being that he was Ian McGeechan's fly-half understudy at Headingley.
But as a coach, it's been a different story.
He guided Merchiston Castle to dominance in Scottish schools rugby - either side of a spell with the short-lived Caledonian Reds pro-team - before taking the helm at Edinburgh in 2000, at which point he gave up teaching.
Under his guiding hand, Edinburgh became the first team from Scotland to reach the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, in 2004, while he'd already cut his teeth at representative level, taking charge of Scotland's Under-16s and Under-18s.
When Williams was sacked last April after a disastrous Six Nations campaign, it was to the studious and technically astute Hadden that the SRU turned, putting him in temporary charge of the national team.
As caretaker coach, he orchestrated end-of-season victories over the Barbarians and Romania, before being given the job on a permanent basis in September.
The autumn campaign ended with a hugely encouraging showing against New Zealand and last weekend Murrayfield went mad as the French were put to the sword.
So how has Hadden done it?
Well, first and foremost, he's put a smile back on the faces of the players.
Under Williams, who won just three out of 17 matches, the Scottish camp became an increasingly grim place.
The Aussie was an advocate of a regimented game-plan, where players had to stick to their zones in both attack and defence and weren't allowed to do their own thing.
As the defeats mounted, Williams became more and more critical, both privately and publicly, of his team, who went on the field scared to try anything for fear of being lambasted.
By midway through last season's championship, the coach had lost the dressing room, with the 46-22 Murrayfield defeat to Wales being the final straw.
Trailing 38-3 at the break, the players decided to throw Williams' regimented game-plan out of the window and play it their way.
A combination of old-fashioned blood-and-thunder Scottish driving and rucking, plus a desire to run the ball, saw the hosts restore some respectability with three second-half tries.
So when Williams appeared to take credit for the turnaround in the post-match press conference, the players were incensed and the coach's position became untenable, with a number of senior team members ready to quit international rugby if he stayed on.
In the end, the Aussie had to go, opening the way for the home-grown Hadden.
The contrast in the approach of the two men could not be more extreme.
Where Williams was restrictive and negative, Hadden has been empowering and positive.
He has removed the fear factor from his players and given them the freedom to go out and do whatever comes naturally.
The result has been a happy and a winning camp.
"I keep telling the players that they must enjoy their work," said Hadden.
"It's no good going to work every morning if you are not enjoying it - you don't produce your best results."
You now find players queuing up to sing the coach's praises, with both seasoned and fresh-faced members of the squad relishing the more relaxed environment.
Full-back Chris Paterson (pictured left) - one of three different captains under Williams - already knew Hadden well from their time together at Edinburgh and has been impressed by what he has brought to the national side.
"There is a confidence among the guys now and increased skill and belief in our handling," he said.
"That's a testament to Frank and his coaching team.
"He has a grasp of what is needed and what they players want, both in what he says to us and how he trains us."
Winger Sean Lamont, who scored two tries in the victory over France, also enthuses about Hadden's man-management skills.
"Frank's very good at getting feedback from the players, which means we're getting more of what we feel we need, more time on the training pitch and less in meeting rooms," he said.
"Rugby players hate sitting in hot, stuffy rooms for too long and there's only so much you can cover in a meeting. Rugby's played on a field."
And on the field, the Scots are starting to fire, as back-rower Allister Hogg acknowledges.
"We may not be the biggest, most physical players in the world, but we are good rugby players," said the Edinburgh flanker, who was outstanding against the French.
"When we are allowed to play, as Frank does for us, our off-loads, our passing, our decision-making and our kicking are all very good and will win us games."
Lions scrum-half Chris Cusiter has to be content with a place on the bench against Wales, with Mike Blair again preferred at No 9.
But, nevertheless, he still extols Hadden's virtues.
"One of Frank's great strengths is instilling the confidence in us that gives us the belief we can beat teams like France," said Cusiter.
"When you're playing with confidence, it's easier to relax and play the type of attacking rugby we played. In the past, we've been guilty of having the wrong attitude, but now every player believes we can win when we go on the park."
Tellingly, Hadden made a point of praising the much-maligned Dan Parks after the win over France.
This is clearly a coach intent on backing his players to the hilt - and they are repaying him handsomely.
Page 2: Meet the marauding Scots