Hoggy on the Six Nations

It is a time of peak excitement, no player has made a mistake and all the teams have their dreams of Six Nations glory still intact.

Scotland open their campaign with a tricky trip across the channel to face France.

In the past, an opening weekend fixture at home against Scotland counted for little more than a languid warm-up before the real action started, but it is suddenly worth a lot more.

Under head coach Vern Cotter, Scotland are arguably the most improved team in the world.

They have a new cutting edge, while possessing an extra bite up front few have seen in a blue jersey.

French head coach, Philippe Saint-Andre, reckoned this week that one of only four teams can win the tournament, a comment Scotland full back Stuart Hogg admitted left him with a bitter taste mouth, and is looking to remind the former international winger about arrogance and humility.

“What has really annoyed me and the rest of the boys leading up to this year’s tournament is that we have already been written off,” said Hogg.

“We have been cast out by some who believe the competition is a four-horse race, with Italy and ourselves out of the picture.”

Hogg continued: “Greg [Laidlaw] came back from the launch weekend and felt that none of the other teams actually respected us.

“It is annoying and ultimately it has made us really want to go out there and show that we not only belong in the title race, but that they shouldn’t be so arrogant as to write us off so early ever again.”

It has been 16 years since Scotland last tasted title victory in the final rendition of the Five Nations.

Many thought the idea of Scotland casting an imposing figure in this year’s title race was laughable, but after positive autumn tests there is belief that Scotland can upset the norm.

The squad is reinvigorated and Hogg said they are looking forward to reminding the French of what Scotland are capable of, and admitted personally he is relishing the opportunity to take on the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud.

He said: “This is the most confident and positive Scotland squad I have been involved in since I’ve been in the set-up.

“France are a good side and are full of some top players, but they are beatable. We had a good autumn and confidence is high, so I see no reason why we should fear them.

“Personally, playing my position and being my size I come up against some big lads, so with someone like Mathieu Bastareaud, it’s not going to faze me.

“It is all about technique, but borrowing a quote from my father: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”