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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 12:40 GMT
Ask Andy Nicol
Andy Nicol lifts the Calcutta Cup in 2000
Six Nations 2005
Live on BBC Sport

BBC Sport's Six Nations pundit Andy Nicol was on hand to answer all your rugby questions.

Andy played 23 times for Scotland, skippering the side on seven occasions, most memorably against England in 2000, when the Scots won the Calcutta Cup 19-13.

He also played on the 1993 British Lions tour to New Zealand, and captained Bath to the European Cup in 1998.

Whether you're a Scotland fan tired of losing, a Welshman contemplating a Grand Slam, or indeed an England supporter eyeing the wooden spoon - get in touch!

Andy answered your emails on Friday 25 February.

Qu: Reassure me Andy - we're not going to lose to Italy are we?!

Elaine, Glasgow

AN: Before the championship started I didn't see this match as a problem, but in the light of recent games I think it will be a lot tighter than I anticipated.

When Scotland narrowly lost to France I was impressed, because they were organised and disciplined, but that optimism faded when we were blown apart by Ireland. We should win - but it will be close.

Qu: Is this just another false dawn for Wales, or are there real signs of quality and longevity within the Welsh squad?

Richard Mount, Wales

AN: I don't think you can call it a false dawn because Wales have been building up to this for the past 18 months. Their level of performance during the World Cup and onwards has been great - now they are getting the results.

Wales' backline has been strong for a couple of years, but now they have a set of forwards who can hold their own they can cause teams real damage - including France at the weekend.

I think France will have to improve tremendously if they are going to beat Wales in Paris.

Qu: If you were Matt Williams, would you pick Dan Parks at 10? If not, who would you play?

Neil, Scotland

AN: The fly-half question is a tricky one for Matt Williams. I think his choice of Parks at 10 was vindicated in Paris, when he produced a disciplined performance.

Parks is a great kicker, but I have to say I thought it wouldn't have been such a bad move if Gordon Ross had come on in the last 20 minutes against Ireland when the game was all but lost.

I'd like to see Williams try Ross out in the second-half against Italy but once again it depends on what the situation on the pitch is.

Qu: Who will be the Lions scrum-half in the summer? Have your Lions hat on and not your Scottish one on!

Paul Hamson, Wales

AN: Ha! So long as you take your Welsh hat off Paul. It's going to be a difficult selection for Clive, I'll grant you that. Dwayne Peel, Gareth Cooper, Chris Cusiter and Harry Ellis are all possibles for the tour, and are all similar players - small, sharp and quick.

I've been very impressed with Peel's development over the past year, and he's definitely the form player of the lot. That said, and call me biased if you like, Cusiter is the only one who has been performing heroics behind two poor packs - Scotland's and the Borders.

If he's good now, just think how impressive he would be behind what I anticipate will be a dominant Lions pack.

Qu: What was the highlight of your career?

Dave, Oxford

AN: Skippering Scotland to the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield in 2000 was an epic day, but I'd have to say in terms of my greatest achievement it would have to be winning the European Cup with Bath in 1998.

The team we had was full of some great people - Ieuan Evans, Jeremy Guscott, Mike Catt - and we'd had to get through some tough games in Wales and France to progress.

The final in Bordeaux against Brive was dramatic to say the least - we won 19-18 - it was incredible. It really brought it home to me when I visited Bath for Mike Catt's testimonial last year, and met so many fans who remember that day at the end of January 1998 so clearly.

Qu: Andy, when Graham Henry asked you to join the Lions in 2001 for the final Test against Australia, did you think it was a wind-up and were you ready to play in a Test?

Rob, Aberdeen

AN: Yes - I was convinced it was a wind-up by someone with a comdey Irish accent. And then I realised it really was Donal Lenihan and he was being deadly serious!

I wasn't in great shape to be honest. I'd been leading a tour group around Australia, and we all know what goes on with maybe it was just as well I didn't play.

I think the adrenalin would have seen me through the first 5-10 minutes but after that I might have struggled - luckily Matt Dawson's body held together.

Qu: Do you see any hope for the Borders, and has the lack of success they have had affected the Scotland side?

Thomas Brown, Scotland

AN: For years the Borders were the bedrock of Scottish rugby, so their demise has been worrying. Players from that area were often famers or labourers, so they were often physically tougher and in better shape than their opponents.

Professionalism has seen that advantage wane, and to add to their problems the side is on a ridiculously low budget. They've turned it round slightly this season but money is a problem - and if you take the international players out of their side then they are severely weakened.

Qu: Before the Six Nations you predicted that Scotland would beat Wales this year. On Scotland's current form do you think they can still beat Wales and will they be able to get more than one win this year?

Daniel Evans, England

AN: Ok - I'll admit my tipping has gone slightly wrong so far in the tournament. I really thought England would beat Wales in Cardiff and look what happened there. Scotland should beat Italy so hopefully it won't be a whitewash - but as for Wales - that will be tricky.

My only thought is that if Wales beat France in Paris, then they'll have one eye on a Grand Slam decider against Ireland in Cardiff. You wonder if the pressure might get the better of them and we might be able to take advantage?

Murrayfield has a habit of throwing up to strange results...

Qu: Andy, you must be enjoying England's form as the rest of us in Scotland. Do you think the Irish can turn them over and give us a chance of making theirs a season to forget!!

Nemo, Auchtermuchty

AN: You never know Nemo - when we play England it could be a wooden-spoon decider!

England have definitely lost their winning aura, there's no question about that. That came from the likes of Johnson, Back and Dallaglio in the forwards and Wilkinson, Greenwood and Tindall in the backs.

Those players gave you a 10-15 point start, and without them they are struggling. The Irish are a settled team and have a really devilish set of backs, led by Brian O'Driscoll.

All the signs are that Ireland will win and win comfortably - but my one word of caution would be never write off the English.


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