“Definitely. We’ve talked about it just about every day in training,” said assistant coach Matt Taylor. “We’ve talked about wanting to be the first Scottish team to win the Six Nations title. It starts on Saturday [at home to Italy] and we’ve got two home games [with Ireland next]. That’s a really good start, having two home games.”
It is certainly the kindest opening set of fixtures the Scots have been handed for a while and defence boss Taylor said the squad were desperate to take full advantage.
“In any home game you’re looking to do well. Whoever you’re playing, whether it’s Italy or Ireland or England, in your first game you want to get off to a good start,” he said.
“What we need to do is turn up with the right attitude and mentality to face a good Italian team, and if we do that we’ll put in a good performance and get a good result.
“As we all know, we didn’t do that [in Rome] last year. We did win the game, but it was touch-and-go whether we were going to do that. We’re going to pay them the respect they’re due. We have to front up.
“We want a good performance this week in training then go out on the pitch on Saturday and put in a good performance.”
Taylor, pictured right, agreed that Glasgow and Edinburgh’s progress to the Heineken Champions Cup had provided the perfect fillip ahead of the campaign.
“I think both Glasgow and Edinburgh have done a great job to get in the quarter-finals,” said the former Scotland A flanker.
“It’s the first time both Scottish teams have been in there. The guys are very upbeat and confident and I think it’s a good sign of where Scottish rugby is. We’ll be looking to take that confidence on board and move on to the Six Nations and do well in the tournament.”
Taylor also welcomed the fact that Scotland will have a European player of the year nominee pulling the strings at stand-off in the shape of Racing 92 stand-off Finn Russell.
“Finn is an excellent player. He’s improving every year and the experience of playing in a different competition and a different environment has helped him,” said the coach.
“He has looked at rugby differently. I think it’s great for anyone at that age. When you move from your own environment you bring back different ideas. You can sense that he is getting more and more confident all the time. That happens when you become more experienced in different environments. He has trained really well.”
Scotland added Glasgow centre Stafford McDowall, pictured inset, to the squad yesterday, along with his club-mate wing Rory Hughes and Edinburgh scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, who is covering George Horne’s shoulder problem.
“George has been struggling a bit, so Henry has come in,” said Taylor. “I think Henry has been playing well and Edinburgh have been doing well. He’s been in and around the squad for a number of years so it’s good to have him in.
“Stafford is a young and up-and-coming player. He’s done really well with Glasgow. The Glasgow coaches think highly of him and he played well at the weekend so it’s good to have him involved. He’s a physically imposing guy and I think he will develop nicely over the next couple of years.
“He’s kind of been brought in because he’s performed well and he’s in a good place for training. He’s an up and coming player and it’s good for him to be involved in the squad.”
Taylor welcomed the prospect of Fraser Brown making a possible imminent return but expressed faith in the uncapped hooker trio of Grant Stewart. Jake Kerr and Dave Cherry as back-up for Stuart McInally.
“The three have done an excellent job, they’ve impressed us,” said Taylor.
“Once again, it’s that thing do you bring Fraser back if he’s ready or do you give an opportunity to a young guy who is performing pretty well, the decision is round what’s best for the team and what you need. There’s a call to be made? Yes, there’s always calls.
“Fraser’s an excellent hooker and really experienced and there’s a possibility he could be right, so if you think he’s right then yeah, you could pick him.
“If we think he needs a little more time, get a few more miles under the belt or some rehab, we’d sit him down until the next game. Today was the first time we’ve trained since Friday, those guys you’re speaking about its the first time we’ve seen them with us.”
Taylor also welcomed the return to club action with Toulouse at the weekend of experienced lock Richie Gray. “He’s a great player, isn’t he? And he’s on our mind in terms if he’s playing consistently,” said Taylor.
“If there’s an opportunity for him to come in, he may come in. We’re definitely keeping an eye on him. He’s a player we think very highly of so there’s always that possibility.”