Exclusive – 'Scotland must beat Ireland to be taken seriously by Six Nations teams', says Andy Nicol
BBC Sport pundit Andy Nicol has run the rule over Scotland's chances against Ireland in their 2021 Six Nations clash this weekend.
Former Scotland international Andy Nicol says Scotland must beat Ireland in the Six Nations this weekend if they are to be "taken seriously" among the elite sides taking part in the annual competition.
Nicol – who will feature on BBC's coverage of Scotland v Ireland live from Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon – demanded consistency from his native side following a mixed pair of results in the tournament so far.
Scotland kicked off the 2021 tournament with a famous win over England at Twickenham, their first victory south of the border since 1983, before they threw away a lead to be defeated by Wales. Their third game, against France, was postponed due to a COVID outbreak among the French squad.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Nicol said: "Scotland have been renowned for having one-off victories. To be taken seriously, to be there at the end of championships when they're decided, you've got to be winning consistently.
"I think that was a missed opportunity [against Wales] because at 17-3, Scotland were in complete control.
"There was a huge opportunity, they missed it. Discipline, not just the red card. There was too many penalties given away.
"You can see in those two games, it doesn't take much of a drop-off in performance to go from winning away to losing at home.
"I think they are capable of [beating Ireland] and if Scotland genuinely want to be taken seriously now as a team that can perform consistently at this level, and be there or thereabouts at the end of a championship, then this is a game they've got to win.
"I think if Scotland can can match the physicality of Ireland, which has been sadly lacking in the last couple of games, then I think we've got a genuine chance and I think Scotland would win the game. Lots of great match-ups, lots of players playing at the top of their game, and I think it should be a great game.
When asked how the rest of the tournament will go for Scotland, Nicol was optimistic and claims a trio of wins would be deemed a success if they can reach that level.
He said: "I think three wins in the Six Nations for Scotland always should be seen as a very, very good year.
"That means, you probably take Italy for granted, then that means two wins against France, England, Ireland or Wales, who traditionally have been ranked above Scotland the world rankings. Three wins is certainly possible winning the home games and the away games don't hold as much fear as they normally would going to Paris.
"We've not won there since 1999 but we hadn't won in London since 1983 and Wales since 2002 until October last year. I think three wins would be seen as a huge result for Scotland, but that means that they've got to repel a resurgent Ireland on Sunday.
"The Six Nations has had everything so far, some great exciting rugby, some controversy, some red cards, some brilliant, brilliant moments of individual brilliance. It's been a hell of a Six Nations so far."