Six Nations 2016: 'Vital that Scotland beat England'

By Andy BurkeBBC Sport
Scotland team
Scotland have lost their last seven Six Nations matches
Six Nations: Scotland v England
Date: Saturday, 6 February Venue: Murrayfield Stadium Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Sport website

Scotland's Six Nations record offers little ammunition to those who believe Vern Cotter's men can mount a serious challenge this year.

The Scots have won only one of their last 12 matches in the tournament, that victory coming thanks to a late Duncan Weir drop goal against Italy in Rome in 2014.

Having finished rock bottom last season, they are on a seven-match losing run in the competition and have only once won more than two matches in a single campaign.

And yet, as ever, there is optimism that Scotland can make their mark.

The performances at the World Cup - where the Scots were a whisker away from a semi-final place after a heroic effort against Australia - gave Scottish fans hope that this team are growing into a force to be reckoned with.

Vern Cotter
Vern Cotter is looking for his first Six Nations victory as Scotland head coach

There appear to be players of genuine quality sprinkled around the pitch, something that has not always been evident in recent years.

So can Scotland finally challenge at the top end of the Six Nations table? They open their campaign against England at Murrayfield on Saturday.

BBC Sport spoke to former Scotland internationals Chris Paterson,John Beattie and Peter Wright to get their thoughts.

New era or another false dawn?

Beattie: "I think we have had a succession of pretty average coaches and now we've got a good coach. He's bolstered the side with project signings. He's got the big team he wants.

"There was enough in the World Cup to make you think that players such as John Hardie, WP Nel, Josh Strauss... that all these lads have made a difference and Scotland are going the right way."

Paterson: "Almost everyone who was involved in the World Cup is in the extended squad and will look to build on the successes they had there.

Mark Bennett
Scotland produced a superb display against Australia in the World Cup quarter-final before losing in controversial circumstances

"There's probably a little bit more expectation on us than on England. I hope they'll be able to deal with that expectation and deliver on the field."

Wright:"We hope this is the start, particularly in the Six Nations, of better times. We've had a bit of a fallow time in the last few years. Two or three times over the last few years we've thought this is us ready to go, we've got a team.

"The key is getting that form back from the World Cup."

Calcutta Cup opener

Beattie:"Let's not listen to history. Forget all the guff that comes with the fixture. Forget that Scottish teams, in theory, aren't as good.

"I think they should just treat it like any other game. This season depends on this first game. If Scotland beat England, it could be an incredible ride from then on in. Opening up with a win is vital."

Paterson: "It's really important to get off to a good start. Scotland have won only one opening game since the inception of the Six Nations, so the stats are against us there.

"What is key to us getting a win is concentrating on ourselves. Get your own game right."

Six Nations Memories: Chris Paterson

Wright: "It's maybe the best time to get England with a new coach and some new players. If they're not up to speed then Scotland, who pretty much have a settled side, could take advantage of that.

"If we lose on Saturday, it could be a long Six Nations."

What would be a successful Six Nations?

Beattie:"I think not finishing in the bottom two is success. I think Scotland in the Six Nations would want to be second, third or fourth. Logic tells you that that's where Scotland's status is.

Paterson: "Hopefully we'll get some wins in this Six Nations. We would love to get a couple of victories at least, but it's so, so hard.

"The results are determined by such fine margins and I suppose too often we've just been on the wrong side of them."

Wright:"If we could win our home games and beat Italy away, I think you would be pretty happy with that.

"The home games are England and France, both pretty tough teams, but with both you're not quite sure what they're going to bring to the Six Nations.

"You would probably argue that the Scotland squad is more settled. That has to be an advantage."

Scotland team
Scotland lost all five of their Six Nations fixtures last season

Scotland's key man

Paterson: Jonny Gray - "We've got one of the hardest working, most impressive forwards in the Six Nations in Jonny Gray. He's a phenomenal player who just delivers every time.

"It would be really good to see him do what he's always done but get the reward for Scotland with some wins and hopefully Jonny can be at the forefront of that."

Wright: Finn Russell - "That management of the game is going to be crucial to Scotland. Where they play on the pitch is going to be really important. The teams who do well have a 10 who is a threat and I thought at the World Cup he was.

Jonny Gray
Jonny Gray has become a pivotal player for Scotland

"He's maturing every week into a player who is potentially world class. He could be crucial to any success Scotland have."

Beattie: WP Nel - "I think the most important player in any rugby team is the tighthead prop. If Scotland get mullered by opposition looseheads and the scrum goes back, you lose matches. You just can't win matches.

"If you can get your scrum ball easy, and your lineout easy, you are halfway to winning."

Top Stories