State of the nation
Signs of hope. Head coach Vern Cotter will leave his role and head to France soon after the tournament and he leaves Scotland in a far better place than he found it. Scotland are now competitive, regardless of the opposition, and the soulsapping drubbings of recent years are being slowly eradicated from memory. The taciturn Kiwi prefers substance over style, but allows the side to express themselves. Stuart Hogg (left). The outstanding Scottish player of the past decade, the full-back seems to possess a dizzying array of skills. He’s lightning quick, has a siege-gun boot and boasts a fierce competitive zeal. Simply, he’s Scotland’s match winner and a certainty to tour with the Lions in the summer. If he spots half a gap, just watch the Borderer go. With Glasgow finally breaking into Europe’s elite domestically, there’s no need for any Scottish player to be gripped by an inferiority complex. With gifted players such as Jonny Gray, Finn Russell and captain Greig Laidlaw, they have enough hard-earned grit to prosper. Whisper it, but hope abounds that Scotland are on the brink of something special.
What to expect
At 6ft 2in and 15 stone, he is quite a presence on the wing, but manages to play with a Gallic panache many find irresistible.
If France can locate their mojo early on, they might well give their Anglo-saxon friends a bloody nose at Twickenham. Infinitely more likely is a win over Scotland in Paris the following weekend. For all their joie de vivre out wide, they will need thundering No 8 Louis Picamoles and industrious captain Guilhem Guirado at their influential best.
What to expect