The strong bond which has formed between Greig Laidlaw and coach Vern Cotter has become increasingly obvious to see over the past three years and yesterday the skipper argued the outgoing national coach had improved Scotland by “miles”.
The Gloucester scrum-half targeted an improvement of last year’s return of two wins in the tournament – against Italy and France – and insisted the squad about to embark on this year’s championship, starting with Ireland at home a week on Saturday, was the best he has been a part of as a player and captain.
“We are miles ahead of where we were when Vern first came in,” said Laidlaw at yesterday’s Six Nations launch in London.
“We are playing with a lot more confidence, each and every player understands what their job is within the team. We have developed our skill sets which Vern has spoken about since he came in and he’s continued to speak about it.
“It’s about trying to develop and become better rugby players, better leaders and having a better understanding of the game. We are starting to strike a good balance between that now.
“Players like Finn, Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones, Stuart Hogg at the back, who’s in great form, as well as Sean Maitland. There are a whole host of players who’ve really developed. We have forwards who can play the ball and that comes through now as we can hurt teams by scoring tries and we need to score tries to win games.
“We can’t go out to try to defend to win games, that’s when you come unstuck. It’s about breaking down defences and we have the players to do that. If we are disciplined and play in the right areas of the field we will give ourselves a chance to win games. I feel as though we are much further down the track than we have been before.”
Laidlaw was keen to keep the focus on that opening match against the All Blacks-toppling Ireland after acknowledging that Scotland did have an unfortunate habit of getting off to momentum-draining bad starts in the competition.
The skipper did not, however, shy away from expressing his hope for a minimum of three victories this year.
“We won’t get ahead of ourselves and Vern has spoken about how tough this Ireland game will be,” stressed the 32-year-old.
“That’s first up and, when you look at their recent results, then you know it’s going to be tough. But in the same breath, we played extremely well against Australia in November, we won against Argentina and played well against Georgia.
“We won two games in the Six Nations Championship last year and we’d like to win more than that this year.”
The home-away split is in Scotland’s favour this year, with Wales and Italy also Murrayfield-bound, and Laidlaw is keen for Scotland to make the most of it.
“Playing at home is good, especially in the first game and we’ve sold our tickets in the quickest time ever and that just shows that the Scottish public is connected to this team,” he said. “We are extremely excited and the home games are going to be massively important.”