After 77 caps in dark blue, Nathan Hines understands Scottish rugby better than most and knows the current side has achieved little yet. But, when asked yesterday what they were targeting in this year’s Six Nations, he offered the obvious if ambitious response: “To win every game.”
This squad have been talked up by all and sundry in the build-up to this afternoon’s Murrayfield opener against Ireland, with many claiming it is the best group Scotland have had since 1999, when they last won the championship.
Hines, the national side’s resource coach, refused to fall into the trap of buying into the hype only to see the Scots fall at the first hurdle. Instead the former lock forward was keen to downplay expectations. While admitting that the Scotland camp felt confident about today’s game Hines was reluctant to give much credence to the pre-match chattering.
“It’s all opinion,” he said. “The fact is we haven’t done anything yet. The games haven’t started and until we can prove we can win on Saturday and win games back-to-back it is still just opinion and it doesn’t mean anything.”
It has been 11 years since Scotland won their opening match in the Six Nations and four since they won consecutive games.
Hines argued that rather than being confident or overly fearful the Scots were on an even keel going into the tournament. After a couple of successful seasons spent in Dublin with Leinster, Hines also understands Irish rugby better than most but even he looked a little bemused as one Irish journalist after another lobbed him questions yesterday about what the nefarious Scots were planning for poor, put-upon scum-half Conor Murray this afternoon.
The Irish No 9 complained bitterly, both during and after Glasgow’s Champions Cup tie with Munster, that the Warriors were targeting his standing leg when he was kicking from hand. The Irish journalists swallowed this line and lovingly garnished it from their own fevered imagination until the beast eventually grew legs, struggled to its feet and staggered all the way to Murrayfield.
“I’m not surprised and not really worried about it,” was Hines’ succinct response. “In rugby, you try to put as much pressure on the nine as you can. As much pressure on the two, the four, anyone you can. If there is any space to put pressure on anyone then you will take it..”
Would there be niggle on account of the recent feisty matches between Glasgow and Munster?
“There will be times when they are niggling us and times when we are niggling them,” Hines replied. “That’s part of rugby, isn’t it?”