WITH my proviso that no amount of sport is worth one life in the midst of this pandemic, we all have to accept the reality that the 2021 Guinness Six Nations is going to start on Saturday come hell or high water.

The need for the unions to earn money and for the broadcasters to be able to show any sort of sport means that the tournament will go ahead without any fans at any matches – it’s not official yet but soon will be – and it will therefore be cauld kale.

The players, coaching teams and various staff members plus the many people it takes to do a live broadcast will all be put at risk of catching the virus, and there will be too many members of the public flouting the rules to gather together and watch the matches on telly. It’s a recipe for disaster, and who will accept responsibility for the increase in positive tests which will surely follow this tournament?

Play is going ahead as planned, however, though only after the French Government relaxed its ban on foreigners so that players will not have to quarantine on arrival. As it happens, France play in the very first game, but that’s in Rome and the Italian Government restrictions on travel into the country insist only on negative tests and face masks on transport including aircraft.

The vast Stadio Olimpico will seem a very strange place without a crowd, and nobody knows how that will affect the players on the day, a remark that applies to all the matches.

The second match on Saturday is England v Scotland at Twickenham. If we get anywhere close to the entertainment standard of that extraordinary drawn match two years ago, then most fans will be happy.

I want more, however – I want us to win. Then I want us to go on and win the Six Nations.

No single player in the Scotland squad was alive when the men in dark blue last won at Twickenham. I was there in 1983 when Scotland condemned England to the Wooden Spoon with tries by Roy Laidlaw and converted basketball player Tom Smith plus a conversion and three penalties by Peter Dods giving us a 22-12 victory – our only win of the tournament, but England hadn’t managed any, their one point coming from a draw with Wales.

Looking back at that Scotland XV, all I can remember is how unlucky they were in the previous matches, all three of them lost by just a few points. Yet you could also feel the squad coming together as the tournament progressed, and Jim Telfer’s men were very worthy winners at Twickenham against a poor England side. Of course, almost the same squad went out and won Scotland’s second Grand Slam the following year.

The point is that with Telfer in charge and with inspirational leadership from Jim Aitken, a team that was full of excellent players and leaders like Colin Deans, David Leslie, Roy Laidlaw and John Rutherford needed only to be confident to win – and that 1983-84 squad was sure of itself.

To win on Saturday, Scotland need to ignore the vaunted reputation of the reigning champions and have full confidence in themselves. England have great players, some of them even world class like Owen Farrell, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Jonny May, Jamie George and Billy Vunipola who would walk into any team bar the All Blacks and Springboks. But they are missing top players like Joe Marler and Joe Launchbury.

Scotland is missing players, too, such as Adam Hastings, but the squad has some wonderful talents and I think they are coming together very well at just the right time.

England’s big forwards will want to dominate, so it is vital that our front five hold them in the tight and allow Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson to let rip. We have Finn Russell back and that will make all the difference with Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe sure to cause problems. I can’t wait to see Cameron Redpath win his first cap as he is a huge prospect, and I just hope that we do not suffer any injuries on Saturday as my one fear is that Scotland’s strength in depth will be tested too much.

Beat England and the championship could be there for the taking. Ireland and Wales have been out of form, but France are always dangerous and they are the form side in the tournament at the moment. That’s before a ball has been kicked, however, and if Scotland can maintain their discipline and continue to play a dynamic game, then it could come down to the last two matches – both at Murrayfield, against Ireland and Italy.

We need a winning start, obviously, and after that anything is possible. I am not exactly tipping Scotland to win the Guinness 6 Nations of 2021, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did.