Ryan Wilson believes Scotland are finally set to shake off their nearly-men tag and make a run for the RBS 6 Nations title.
The Scots have been making progress for a number of years but have struggled to convert that into victories. However, Wilson believes outgoing coach Vern Cotter is heading into his last shot at the Championships with a squad capable of causing a stir.
The Glasgow flanker is part of a 16-strong Warriors contingent buoyed by a historic run to the Champions Cup quarter-finals.
And he says that with a rejuvenated Edinburgh also playing their part by supplying 12 players to Cotter’s group, allied with another eight men plying their trade in the English and French top flights, it has never been harder to pick a Scotland XV.
The 27-year-old said: “We’re in a really good place but you think that at the start of every Six Nations. This time we have got some real depth in positions all across the park, especially in the centres and back-row. That can only be real good for Scotland.
“It is harder than ever to get a place in this team now and I think that’s what makes us a better team. Competition can only be good for individuals and we’ve got that.
“Three wins would be the minimum target for us this year I’d say — but we’re looking to go out and win every game. Can we make a title push? Yeah, definitely.”
The Scots will need to rewrite 11 years of Championships false starts, however, if they are to have a realistic shot at the Six Nations crown. They have not claimed an opening weekend victory since beating France back in 2006 and have another tough clash for starters this time, with Ireland first up at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Joe Schmidt’s men, however, will be without key men Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony.
Wilson knows injuries to those key figures — especially talismanic British and Irish Lions fly-half Sexton — will set Scottish imaginations running wild.
But he urged caution ahead of facing a side who they have beaten just once in the last five years.
Wilson said: “Sexton is a key man for them and a lot of people are going to [have raised expectations now that he’s not playing].
“But we’re just going to focus on our job. I wouldn’t say it has given us an extra lift because we have only thought about ourselves this week. I’m sure someone like Paddy Jackson will step in. He’s a brilliant player and does that job for Ulster anyway.
“It’s the same with O’Mahony. They have brilliant depth in their back-row. They have guys like CJ Stander, Jamie Heaslip, and Josh van der Flier who can all come in, so they have a whole new back-row who could come in and do exactly the same job.
“We’d hope the expectations will be high in our country anyway because we’re in a good place right now and we want to go out and win.”
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