BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Former Calcutta Cup-winning captain Andy Nicol believes there is ‘absolutely no reason’ why Scotland cannot triumph in tomorrow’s mouthwatering Six Nations opener against England.
Nicol led the Scots to a famous 19-13 win over the Auld Enemy at Murrayfield in 2000, one of just three victories for the nation in the fixture since the historic Grand Slam decider of 1990.
The former Bath and Glasgow scrum-half, who was capped 23 times for his country, has declared himself ‘excited’ by the line-up announced by head coach Vern Cotter yesterday.
And the 44-year-old is hopeful that, after a Six Nations whitewash last year, the progress made in coming within a whisker of reaching the World Cup semi-finals will not prove to be a flash in the pan.
Despite being uncomfortable with new England head coach Eddie Jones’ insistence that Scotland will be favourites, Nicol said: “I like the team, it’s a really strong side.
“There were a few injuries leading up to it and we didn’t know if the likes of Mark Bennett would recover in time and he’s a key, key player.
“But I really like it. It’s very settled, it’s very experienced and yet still young – it’s a great age demographic, actually.
“I look at that side and I’m quite excited.
“Scotland as favourites? That’s a scary thought!
“But I think we need to take confidence. We should look at the side we’ve picked and look at the England side and say there’s absolutely no reason why Scotland can’t win this.
“Scotland are a team playing well, full of confidence; they like each other, they know each other.
“And what we saw in the World Cup was hopefully a stepping stone towards greater things and not the pinnacle of what this team could do.
“I think it’s a really tight game to call – it’s the flip of a coin, almost – but hopefully, if we can do certain things, we can come out on the right side of that.”
Given the personnel that performed so well at the World Cup, the XV named by Cotter contained few surprises.
However, the one selection that has been warmly welcomed by Nicol is the return of John Barclay in the back row following the omission of the Scarlets flanker for the global tournament in the autumn.
Nicol added to the BBC: “Blair Cowan did so well latterly in the World Cup, although he missed out on the original selection, but I’m delighted that John Barclay is back in the back row.
“He’s a player, a quality player, who we’ve not used nearly enough in the last couple of years, so I’m delighted to see him back.”