There's plenty of belief in the Scotland camp right now, says the Edinburgh hooker

Stuart McInally: “We can win the Six Nations”

Scotland have never won the Guinness Six Nations, nor even been in the shake-up on the final day since the tournament welcomed Italy into its ranks 2000. But ahead of Saturday’s opening fixture against England, there’s a growing conviction that Gregor Townsend’s men can do something special this year.

“We feel we can win the Six Nations. Absolutely,” says hooker Stuart McInally, who will be on the bench for the clash at Murrayfield.

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“We understand that history is against us on that but then we hadn’t beaten England at Twickenham for 38 years [until they did last year]. History changes if you keep doing the right things and we believe we’re doing a lot of the right things up in Scotland.

“We’re certainly not getting ahead of ourselves, we don’t go in expecting necessarily to win the tournament but we expect really high standards of ourselves. We want to win and that’s our aim but we understand the challenge. We have really high expectations of ourselves.

“We believe we are improving year on year and ultimately we want to turn those improvements people are seeing into consistent wins and trophies.”

2021 Calcutta Cup

Scotland go into the match as Calcutta Cup holders after last year’s 11-6 win at Twickenham (SNS Group)

Scotland finished fourth in last year’s championship, despite beating both England and France away. They lost by a point to eventual champions Wales and a first Scottish title since 1999 was closer than the final table suggests.

That is reinforced in the betting, with bookmakers William Hill seeing more bets on the Scots than on title favourites France. Spokesman Rupert Adams said: “It’s clear plenty see Scotland as interesting contenders. At 9-1, that is where the money is going.”

More recent results also offer encouragement for Scotland, who beat Australia, Tonga and Japan in the autumn whilst losing to South Africa. McInally sees positives in that campaign.

“One of the biggest things I look at is I still don’t feel we were at our best in the autumn,” says the Edinburgh forward. “There were a lot of areas that we could have done better. Against Australia we left a lot of tries out there.

Stuart McInally: "We can win the Six Nations"

McInally scores against Japan in November, one of 11 International tries by the hooker (AFP/Getty)

“We were far from our best but we still played well enough to win. That’s hugely exciting for this group. I don’t feel we peaked in the autumn, we didn’t put our best out there. There were some outstanding performances in the [2021] Six Nations, notably England and France, two huge away wins. I don’t believe last autumn we played as well as we did in the Six Nations.

“However, the fact we’re still turning over the quality of opposition such as Australia, Tonga and Japan stands us in good stead. We spend more time together as we get into the Six Nations so we can work on our cohesion. We’re quite excited about what we can achieve.”

McInally missed last year’s Six Nations after sustaining a neck injury in training. So this weekend he’s poised for his first Six Nations action since his try-scoring heroics in the 28-17 win over France in March 2020.

“There’s quality hookers coming through in Scottish rugby now and if I get the chance to play, I’ll grab it,” says the 43-cap hooker. “Missing out on last year, watching the boys do so well, that makes you even more hungry to contribute to the success of the Six Nations.”

Scotland will climb above Australia into sixth place in the World Rugby Rankings if they beat England. A new high of fourth is possible – but, inter alia, that would require Italy to end their 32-match losing streak in the championship by winning in Paris.

Celebrating a try v France

Celebrating his try against France in March 2020 – the last time he played in the championship (Getty)

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