Scotland’s match with Italy this weekend could be the most important in their history, according to former national captain Andy Nicol.
The Scots are on their worst run of Six Nations defeats for over 60 years – a nine-game Six Nations losing streak.
“I remember saying that the quarter-final against Australia at the World Cup was the biggest in our history,” said Nicol.
“That game pails into insignificance now compared to this.”
Scotland last won a Six Nations game two years ago and Nicol thinks that ending that dismal run is vital because their credibility as a top-tier rugby nation is being called into question.
“It’s just unthinkable for Scotland to go 10 games in the Six Nations without winning,” said Nicol.
“That’s why this is one of the biggest games ever.”
Scotland’s last victory in the Six Nations came in 2014, when Duncan Weir scored a last-minute drop goal in Rome to beat Italy 21-20.
Last season, Vern Cotter suffered a whitewash of defeats in his first campaign as head coach.
It was the second time in four seasons that Scotland had gone without a win in the tournament.
Now Nicol, who played 23 times for Scotland, fears his country’s rugby credibility is on the line.
“There was uproar last week when Sir Clive Woodward said that England had played the second division up to now in the championship by playing Scotland and Italy,” he said.
“But the stats back that up. Nine games without a win is certainly not first division. This is all about credibility in the Six Nations.”
Nicol believes Scotland can still enjoy a good championship, starting with a win on Saturday before facing France at Murrayfield then Ireland in Dublin.
While the man who lifted the Calcutta Cup in 2000 has some sympathy for the players who make up a “really good squad”, the prospect of a second successive campaign without a win fills him with dread.
“We’ve always struggled in the Six Nations,” Nicol suggested. “People look back with rose-tinted spectacles and talk about the good old days.
“Well I played in the good old days and they weren’t that good.
“We didn’t win that many games, but we certainly didn’t go nine games without a win.
“It doesn’t feel like that because there have been highs in the autumn Tests and the World Cup, but if we don’t win tomorrow, this could be back-to-back whitewashes and that is a terrible thought.”