Scotland: Gregor Townsend will keep squad grounded - Scott Hastings
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend "will keep his feet firmly grounded" but their autumn displays "augur well" for the Six Nations, says Scott Hastings.
The Scots have not won the Championship since the last Five Nations in 1999, or finished better than third since.
But optimism is rising after a narrow defeat by world champions New Zealand and a record win over Australia.
Asked if he thought Scotland can win the Six Nations, Hastings replied: ""I believe we can."
And the former Scotland centre, who won 65 caps, said: "This is as exciting a team as we saw back in 1999 and maybe, 2018 will be an even more exciting year.
"It is amazing that the crowd are now expecting Scotland to win when they go to Murrayfield. The players are responding and the positive performances this autumn really augurs well. There is a real buzz and excitement.
"Having France and England, traditionally the two strongest teams that Scotland face, at home [in the Six Nations], you never know.
|Scotland's 2018 Six Nations fixtures|
|Sat 3 Feb: Wales (A) 14:15 KO||Sat 10 Mar: Ireland (A) 14:15|
|Sun 11 Feb: France (H) 15:00||Sat 17 Mar: Italy (A) 12:30|
|Sat 24 Feb: England (H) 16:45||(all times GMT)|
"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 knowing there is a lot more to come from within this team.
"There is a lot more they can do with the ball, their accuracy, eliminating mistakes, getting the defence right.
"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."
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Scotland open their Six Nations campaign on 3 February against Wales in Cardiff, where they have not won since 2002, losing on their past eight visits.
They did end a nine-match losing streak against the Welsh in this year's Six Nations at Murrayfield, but what happened in the following round of matches - a 61-21 drubbing at Twickenham - is enough for Hastings to offer a note of caution.
"Gregor will keep his feet firmly grounded - he only has to look back to last year against England, when they leaked 60 points, and against France, when they were out-fought in a very physical game," Hastings added.
"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.
"When Scotland come up against the bigger teams, they won't dominate as much as against the likes of Samoa."
The Scots scored 16 tries in their three autumn Tests, and have crossed 27 times in six Tests since Townsend took charge, following their record of 14 in this year's Six Nations.
"What Gregor has brought to this team is not only attacking flair but a belief within the squad, and a real challenge to the players to raise their game - across the board from the experienced players like Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell to the newer players such as Darryl Marfo and Ben Toolis, and Stuart McInally coming back in," Hastings added.
"Everybody has raised their game and there is a real excitement around Scottish rugby.
"Mistakes are still a bit of an issue. Finn Russell missed a few kicks to touch but you are always going to get a lapse in concentration. It is a matter of eliminating those mistakes and for the players to gain confidence from their success.
"The next game is going to be absolutely key to kicking off the championship in style, in what will be a very difficult environment down in Cardiff.
"It would be unusual for Scotland to go there as favourites; they have not won there for a number of years."