Byline: NIALL AITCHESON
SIMON WEBSTER has warned his Scotland team- mates about the danger of giving Grand Slam- chasing France too much respect when the countries meet tomorrow.
Scotland's dismal record against the Tricolores in recent seasons is already starting to mirror their success rate - or lack of it - against the Auld Enemy. No win since 1999 and no t ry scored against Bernard Laporte's team since 2000 are depressing statistics in anyone's language.
Throw in a few record defeats along the way, such as that 51-9 World Cup humiliation in Sydney last October, and you can see why the odds are stacked so steeply against Matt Williams' young and inexperienced side breaking their championship duck.
Williams has gone out of his way to dampen down expectations since taking over the hotseat from Ian McGeechan. He has even said the team could go 12 months before securing the first win of his tenure.
The evidence so far suggests his players have also bought into this defeatist philosophy. A common theme running through Scotland press conferences these days is of taking the hard knocks before they can move forward.
We have been told about the need for progress and to develop 'systems', but no mention has been made of the need to actually start winning matches.
This air of resignation was particularly evident in the build-up to the Scots' last game, in Italy. And so it proved on the field, as a more determined Italian team took the honours in the battle of the tournament also-rans.
Scottish supporters have found it difficult to accept the lack of passion and ambition from their favourites. In the aftermath of the Stadio Flaminio debacle, the howls of discontent reached fever pitch, as message boards were flooded with complaints.
Amid all the negative talk and premature excuses coming out of the Scotland camp, individual acts of defiance have been few and far between. But at least one member of the squad has continued to beat the drum of hope.
It was Webster, you may remember, who publicly claimed they could beat England.
His bold statement of intent, which went against the party line, could be put down to youthful bravado on the part of the 22-year-old Edinburgh wing, who at this early stage of his international career is not saddled with any unwanted baggage.
After all, he is nicknamed 'Nitro' by his club colleagues for his explosive and often unpredictable breaks from deep. Yesterday, as he prepared to lock horns again with some familiar faces from Edinburgh's European Cup rivals Toulouse, Webster insisted there was no reason for Scotland to be in awe of the full French national side. …