Scots to see their like again?

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

LON­DON: With Scot­land’s rugby clubs rid­ing high in Europe and their Six Nations squad one of the strong­est in years, coach Vern Cot­ter says there is a “buzz” around his team ahead of their opener against Ireland.

Glas­gow, made up mainly of Scottish in­ter­na­tion­als, thrashed Le­ices­ter 43-0 away on Satur­day to reach the last eight of Europe’s premier club com­pe­ti­tion for the first time. And Ed­in­burgh booked a quar­ter-fi­nal berth in the sec­ond-tier Chal­lenge Cup.

“It was great get­ting the team back to­gether on Sun­day night. There was a buzz,” Cot­ter said at the Six Nations launch.

“The silent in­di­ca­tors of the game in Scot­land are shift­ing for­ward – if you look at the pro teams and if you look at the depth com­ing through.”

Scot­land host Ireland in their open­ing match on Fe­bru­ary 4 and Cot­ter said the main tar­get was to im­prove on the teams’ two pre­vi­ous meet­ings in the tour­na­ment – a 35-25 loss in Dublin last year and a 40-10 home de­feat in 2015.

“If you talk­ing about gains, we’d like to nar­row that (dif­fer­ence) and show we are get­ting bet­ter,” Cot­ter said.

He also said there was “a real dose of re­al­ism” in his squad af­ter many of the play­ers were in­volved in Glas­gow’s home de­feat to Ir­ish prov­ince Mun­ster a few weeks ago.

Of added in­cen­tive for Scot­land’s play­ers is the chance to make their case for in­clu­sion in the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions Tour to New Zealand, with Cot­ter sug­gest­ing 10 Scots could be in con­tention.

Many pun­dits have al­ready tipped full­back Stuart Hogg to be­come the first Scottish player to start a Lions Test match since prop Tom Smith in 2001.

“From a play­ers’ point of view it is pretty ex­cit­ing if they can put in some good per­for­mances and get a seat on that flight out to New Zealand,” he said.

“I think it’s great for the Scottish boys, there are play­ers that come into con­tention and that is good for the game in Scot­land.”

Scot­land won the last vic­tory in the cham­pi­onship was in 1999. “Are we real con­tenders for the Six Nations?,” Cot­ter said. “I don’t think that’s the type of thing we are go­ing to say in Scot­land. We are a hum­ble group of peo­ple who want to do well.”

Ireland coach Joe Sch­midt, mean­while, is con­fi­dent vet­eran fly­half Johnny Sex­ton will be fully fit for his coun­try’s open­ing to the Scots.

Sex­ton picked up a calf in­jury in Le­in­ster’s 24-24 draw with Cas­tres on Fri­day, and Sch­midt said even if he does not pull through, Paddy Jack­son is an able deputy, with un­capped cen­tre Rory Scannell also an op­tion at No 10. –

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