Scotland ‘have chance of winning Six Nations’ say ex-internationals

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Former Scotland centre Scott Hastings and ex-England international Jeremy Guscott have both cautiously backed Gregor Townsend’s side to impress in next year’s Six Nations Championship.

Hastings, who made 64 appearances for the national team, believes Scotland are capable of winning the tournament, which they haven’t won since 1999 - in its earlier incarnation as the Five Nations.

Stuart McInally acknowledges the fans at full time. Picture: SNS Group

Stuart McInally acknowledges the fans at full time. Picture: SNS Group

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Speaking to BBC Sport Scotland, Hastings said: “I believe we can [win the Six Nations].

“This is as exciting a team as we saw back in 1999 and maybe, 2018 will be an even more exciting year. The crowd are now expecting Scotland to win when they go to Murrayfield.

“Having France and England - traditionally the two strongest teams that Scotland face - at home [in the Six Nations]... you never know.”

Jeremy Guscott gets to grips with Tony Stanger during Scotland's 13-7 victory over England at Murrayfield in 1990. Picture: Getty Images

Jeremy Guscott gets to grips with Tony Stanger during Scotland's 13-7 victory over England at Murrayfield in 1990. Picture: Getty Images

And Guscott, who turned out for England 65 times between 1989 and 1999 added in an analysis piece for the BBC: “With these two performances [against New Zealand and Australia] this appears to be a new era for Scottish rugby.

“This side means business and they have a big chance for the Six Nations. They look as if they will be challenging very closely to win the Championship, and why shouldn’t they be?”

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Scotland ran the All Blacks close at BT Murrayfield in the second of three Autumn Tests and spoiled Stephen Moore’s final appearance for the Wallabies by racking up a convincing 54-23 victory in the final match of the series.

Scott Hastings kicks for touch, despite the attentions of Thierry Lacroix and Philippe Bennetton during the France v Scotland Five Nations match at the Parc des Princes in 1993. Picture: TSPL

Scott Hastings kicks for touch, despite the attentions of Thierry Lacroix and Philippe Bennetton during the France v Scotland Five Nations match at the Parc des Princes in 1993. Picture: TSPL

They begin their 2018 Six Nations campaign next year with a trip to Cardiff to face Wales, before taking on France and England at home on consecutive game weekends.

Townsend will then take his men to Dublin to face Ireland on 10 March before returning home to take on Italy in their final fixture.

And Hastings believes that Scottish rugby is in a good place - even if the Scots haven’t won in the Welsh capital since 2002, losing eight matches since. However, they did vanish a nine-game losing streak against the Welsh with a victory at Murrayfield earlier this year.

Hastings added: “Often Scottish rugby comes in cycles, and perhaps we are in one of those good cycles - a winning cycle.

“I hope the players can take confidence from the way that they played but there is a lot more they can do with the ball, their accuracy, eliminating mistakes, getting the defence right.

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“The beauty is it is easier to do that off a winning platform, so there is a lot of excitement going into 2018. Scottish rugby is in a good place at the moment.”

The Scots have finished third in the Six Nations on three occasions, the most recent being last year, and despite optimism running high, Hastings reckons Townsend will keep his charges grounded.

“Gregor only has to look back to last year against England, when [Scotland] leaked 60 points, and against France, when they were out-fought in a very physical game,” Hastings explained.

“But year on year some of these players are learning how to adapt to that pressure. They just have to keep working on the good things on the training field - ingraining that team spirit, but also an attitude, and accuracy, within the game.

In three Autumn Tests, Scotland crossed the line for 16 tries, bringing their total number to 27 in six Tests since Townsend took the reins.

And Guscott believes Scotland are growing in confidence, which will be vital heading into next year.

“Townsend has found the ‘on’ switch for this group of players. They are responding to what he is coaching and it was a very convincing victory over the Wallabies.

“To come off the back of their lively performance against the All Blacks and respond in the way they did wasn’t a surprise, but it wasn’t exactly expected either. It’s what a good team should do.”

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