How will Scotland fare in the 2017 Six Nations Rugby?

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It’s that time of year again; the Six Nations gets underway in less than three weeks and Vern Cotter’s Scotland will be quietly confident of picking up a victory or two over the next couple of months.

With three fixtures at Murrayfield, excitement is growing across the city of Edinburgh and fans are starting to believe that while Scotland aren’t an obvious pick to win the trophy, they are due a better return than in 2016.

Scotland will take plenty of confidence from their performances against both Argentina and Australia in November’s autumn internationals series – and rightly so. Cotter’s side held off World Cup semi-finalists Argentina to claim a 19-16 success before falling short by a single point against Australia.

If nothing else, those results showed that Scotland can hold their own against the best teams on the planet and they will fancy their chances in front of the passionate Murrayfield crowd.


Ireland (Week 1)

Ireland head into this clash as a bit of an unknown quantity and Scotland will be wary of a potential Irish crusade on the opening weekend of the competition.

Joe Schmidt’s side sent shock waves across the world when beating New Zealand in Chicago at the back-end of last year but order was restored as the All Blacks produced a convincing performance to hand Ireland a disappointing home defeat.

Scotland’s recent record against Ireland is poor reading for Scottish fans – we’ve won just one of the last six against Schmidt’s men. However, it would be fair to say that it has been a long time since Scotland were playing this well and the Murrayfield atmosphere could make all the difference as Cotter’s men seek the perfect start to the calendar year.

With Ireland, you know what you’re getting. They will attempt to control territory and play for field position; that is how they operate. For Scotland to win, they will need to be solid and consistent with the high ball.

Any unforced errors will just hand Ireland the initiative to force penalties in kick-able areas. If Scotland can limit Ireland’s kicking game, they will be halfway there to winning this game.


Wales (Week 3)

Rob Howley’s side failed to inspire confidence in the November internationals but they tend to find their best form at major tournaments and Scotland will need to be at their brilliant best to stand any chance of success in this contest.

Since beating Wales back in 2003, Scotland have won just once in 14 games against the Dragons – a poor record to say the least. Cotter’s side lost by just three points in their most recent head-to-head at Murrayfield and the Scottish fans will be expecting yet another close encounter this time around.

Wales were very disappointing when beating Japan in the autumn but were much improved against South Africa in the final game of the series. With key personalities returning to the fray, Howley’s men will be one of the dark horses in this year’s competition.

New Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones is a key figure for the visitors and Scotland must limit his impact on both offense and defence to emerge victorious. If Howley gives his side the green light to attack Scotland early on, it could get nasty. Cotter must combat Wales’ potent attack by slowing the game down and keeping the defensive line tight.


Italy (Week 5)

On paper, this is Scotland’s easiest fixture and could give Cotter and co the perfect way to end the tournament with a comprehensive victory. Scotland have an impressive record against the Italians and this could determine whether the hosts finish above or below the likes of France this year.

Italy have struggled to inspire confidence for quite some time but Scotland will need to be wary of a potential shock on home soil. The visitors have won just once in their last six trips to Murrayfield and it is difficult to envision that record changing on current form.

Head coach Conor O’Shea has already had an impressive impact since taking over at the helm; beating the United States and Canada before leading Italy to a first ever success over South Africa. The omens may be against O’Shea’s side but Scotland cannot afford to take them lightly or risk an embarrassing defeat.

Scotland are a much better, more complete side than Italy and the hosts could run riot if they play at their scintillating best. Italy have shown signs of potential under their new boss but the Six Nations is the ultimate test and the visitors may be found out against the best teams in the northern hemisphere.

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