The 2004 RBS 6 Nations will see the start of a new era for Scottish rugby after the appointment of Matt Williams as coach of the national side.
I find it quite sad that we were required to go to Australia to find a coach of the right calibre and ability to replace Ian McGeechan. I firmly believe we should be developing our own coaches in Scotland, who understand the structure and traditions of the Scottish game.
However, we have attracted a coach who knows what it means to operate at a high level, and he will bring a fresh approach to the job.
Williams was successful with Leinster and has coached almost entirely during the professional era. He also comes into the role at a time when Scotland's reputation is not exactly glowing after a rather disappointing World Cup, and realistically the only way is up.
The Scottish squad will have an unusual look with several experienced players now retired. The likes of Gregor Townsend, Bryan Redpath and Kenny Logan had literally hundreds of caps between them, and finding replacements will not be easy. But it does give other players a chance to stand up and be counted, and it's a real opportunity for Scotland's next generation.
I was very pleased to see Chris Paterson given the number 10 shirt during the World Cup and I sincerely hope he keeps it for the 2004 RBS 6 Nations.
He has also been playing at stand-off for Edinburgh, who are having a very good season, and I think the Edinburgh axle could make a huge difference to Scotland. With Simon Taylor at number eight, Mike Blair at scrum-half and Paterson at number 10, there would be both continuity and a set of talented players who could put opposition defences on the back foot.
I still believe Scotland lack pace out wide, and that was a problem at the World Cup where an absence of cutting edge was evident. It worries me that we have so few players challenging for places in the side in the three quarters.
Realistically, if the Scots can win more games than they lose in Williams' first tournament as coach then I think that will be a credible performance.
England and France will, as usual, be very strong, but Wales tend to blow hot and cold, and Ireland lack a really solid tight five.
Italy, however, are a team to watch. They seem to have found a replacement for Diego Dominguez in Rima Wakarua and if John Kirwan sticks with him at number 10, they may well cause an upset or two.
Peter O'Mahony was named man of the match against England last month
21 April 2017, 7:22pm
Peter O'Mahony's performance in the RBS 6 Nations finale for Ireland against England was crucial to his selection for the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday, Ireland and Lions defence coach Andy Farrell has revealed.