Six Nations: Scotland coach O'Halloran plays down comparisons with 1999 stars

Jason O'Halloran
Jason O'Halloran will form part of the Glasgow Warriors coaching team next season
Six Nations 2017
Dates: 4 Feb-18 March Coverage: BBC TV, Radio and online

Scotland backs coach Jason O'Halloran says only a successful Six Nations will lend weight to comparisons between the national side now and the 1999 vintage.

Jim Telfer, who led the Scots to victory in the Five Nations 18 years ago, believes Vern Cotter's squad is the best since his title-winning group.

"It's a flattering comment but it doesn't give us points when we start against Ireland," O'Halloran said.

"It's of no tangible benefit unless they perform really well."

The Scots take on Ireland in the Six Nations opener at Murrayfield on Saturday. Hopes are high among many Scottish supporters that the national team can provide a stronger challenge than in recent seasons, but O'Halloran warns that the current team is still some way off fulfilling their potential.

"I think this team will ultimately be at its best in a couple more years' time," the New Zealander explained.

"We'll have more guys round about that 50-caps mark and will continue to grow that leadership."

Scotland in the 2017 Six Nations
Saturday, 4 February, 14:25 GMT: Scotland v Ireland
Sunday, 12 February, 15:00 GMT: France v Scotland
Saturday, 25 February, 14:25 GMT: Scotland v Wales
Saturday, 11 March, 16:00 GMT: England v Scotland
Saturday, 18 March, 12:30 GMT: Scotland v Italy

Centre Alex Dunbar sees more strength in depth in the squad than in recent years, particularly in the midfield area where he operates.

The Glasgow Warrior has agreed a new deal to extend his stay at Scotstoun until 2019, and although he admits there was interest from other clubs, he says Glasgow's recent European displays - including the 43-0 Champions Cup hammering of Leicester at Welford Road - convinced him to stay put.

"There was interest there but at the time I just focused on my rugby and playing well," Dunbar said.

"The boys that signed early - Tommy Seymour, Stuart Hogg, Tim Swanson, Henry Pyrgos - it's good that they are signing up early and committing to the club.

"The way the squad is playing just now was a massive factor in it. We've started to find ourselves a lot more now, we're a lot more competitive, certainly in the last couple of weeks in Europe.

"I think it's a great place to be in a very settled squad. Hopefully we can push on and keep developing."

Glasgow advanced to the last eight of the Champions Cup despite a narrow loss at home to Munster in their penultimate pool match. O'Halloran believes there are lessons to be learned from that match that Scotland must heed against Ireland.

He said: "Composure in the crucial moments and having a collective understanding on what we're trying to achieve when it really comes to the crunch are probably the key learnings out of the Munster games.

"Munster's ability to nail games in the last 10 minutes is really impressive, as is the quality of their defence throughout. You look after the ball and when you get opportunities to take points you take them as often as possible."

O'Halloran, who was linked with a role in Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions coaching staff before ruling himself out of the running, will join Dave Rennie's back room team at Glasgow at the end of the season.

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