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Scots assistant coach cautious

O’Halloran plays down Six Nations hype

Six NationsScotland assistant coach Jason O’Halloran has played down the hype surrounding the chances of RBS Six Nations glory this year.

Much has been made recently of the quality of Vern Cotter’s current squad, with the likes of former international stars Andy Nicol, Alan Tait and Jim Telfer believing this season offers the Scots their best chance in years of scaling the Championship heights.

As they prepare to face Ireland in Saturday’s curtain-raiser at a sold-out BT Murrayfield, however, O’Halloran insisted it will be some time before the players hit their peak.

“This team will ultimately be at its best in a couple of years’ time when we get more guys up around that 50-cap mark and grow that leadership culture,” said the New Zealander.

“Those are flattering comments [from Telfer, Nicol and Tait] but it doesn’t give us any points when we start against Ireland.

“What it does is give us in terms of combinations is real confidence, which is crucial for the trust element you need in these big games. But it won’t give us a five-point start on Ireland, so it’s of no real tangible benefit unless we perform really well.”

Cotter leaves his post for Montpellier in the summer, with the squad in a much better place under his guidance, according to O’Halloran.

“I’d like to think the guys have improved quite a lot in our time in charge,” he said.

“They can definitely still be better. There are aspects of their catch and pass under pressure which are going to have to be good against Ireland, so that’s one aspect we continue to stress.

“But our work rate off the ball and our attacking mind set is a lot better. The boys just want to go out and express themselves. If we can have that again for this campaign we won’t die wondering.”

Scotland also host Wales and Italy this year, while last season’s Grand Slam winners England begin their defence of the title against France at Twickenham, also on Saturday.

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