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New captain John Leslie
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Scottish fly-half Gregor Townsend
"It'll be harder for Scotland this year"
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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 20:06 GMT
Scotland: European champions

celebrate Scotland celebrate their 36-22 victory over France

After an admirable showing in the World Cup, current Five Nations champions Scotland will move into the inaugural Six Nations tournament with confidence.

Recent results
Oct 1999: Scotland 18-30 New Zealand
Oct 1999: Scotland 35-20 Samoa
Oct 1999: Scotland 48-0 Spain
Oct 1999: Scotland 43-12 Uruguay
Oct 1999: Scotland 29-46 South Africa
Aug 1999: Scotland 60-19 Romania
Aug 1999: Scotland 22-31 Argentina
The Scots - so often underrated - have lost a number of key players since October, but the return of inspirational leader Ian McGeechan as coach will no doubt raise their spirits.

Ex-captain Gary Armstrong, British Lion Alan Tait and Paul Burnell will be watching from the stands, come 5 February.

The loss of such quality players is undoubtedly a blow for the Scots, but less so if you consider their replacements.

McGeechan has brought back the former Bath skipper Andy Nicol in place of Armstrong, while South African-born Matthew Proudfoot, who comes in for Burnell, is the only other non-World Cup player selected for the squad.

Scotland's showing against France in Paris and their heroic struggle against the All Blacks during the World Cup point to a side who should not be taken lightly.

telfer Coach Jim Telfer commiserates with his playes after their defeat to NZ
Under ex-coach Jim Telfer, their rugby was often breathtaking and their never-say-die attitude, as Budge Pountney and wing Cameron Murray's second half tries against New Zealand made evident, can disrupt the most organised opponents.

Indeed, had Kenny Logan not missed three straightforward penalty attempts against England at Twickenham the 1999 Grand Slam would have been theirs.

Instead, Scotland had to rely on a piece of individual brilliance from Welsh centre Scott Gibbs, before they could celebrate winning the European crown.

It was a dramatic finale to the Five Nations championship, but more worrying for the Scots, it prompted something of a drop in form.

An unsuccessful tour of South Africa was then followed by a 22-31 defeat to the Pumas and their shaky 43-12 victory over Uruguay during the World Cup hints that consistency could, perhaps, be a problem.

No doubt the Scots will again wear the tag of "underdog" with pride, however.

And though McGeechan faces a challenging task in satisfying the demand for continued success, their European opponents should, this time around, offer them the respect they deserve.

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