Scotland’s resurgence has talismanic fly-half Finn Russell believing his side may break into the top five in the world over the next couple of years.
Russell, who marshals a talented back-line against world champions South Africa on Saturday, landed the winning penalty against Australia and is anticipating the 15-13 victory as a springboard both for the rest of November and for the Six Nations, where a good performance could realistically see Scotland moving up to fifth in the world.
“In my time we’ve always been up there in the top 10, which is great, but we’ve got to push to get to the top five, if not higher,” said a bullish Russell.
“That’s why it was a big result for us to beat Australia. We’ve beaten them the last three times we’ve played them.
“There’s not an expectation that we’d beat them because they’re still the number three team in the world but within the squad we were confident going into that game and we knew if we played well, we’d have the ability to beat them.
“That’s the level of expectation we’ve got in this group just now, that we know we can knock over the number three team in the world.
“I think we can break into the top five. If we get the results we’re looking for in the next few games and then into the Six Nations, we’ll be well on our way up there. I believe we can.”
Russell feels a key factor in Scotland’s resurgence is their ability to hold their nerve in tight matches against top-level sides such as the Six Nations wins over England and France, and Sunday’s triumph over the Wallabies.
It gives the Racing 92 player belief that they are equipped to pull off another big result when world champions South Africa visit Murrayfield.
He said: “That game on Sunday was one we potentially might have lost in the past, when the narrow margins would go against us. But now we seem to have changed that and, instead of losing by fine margins on Sunday, we managed to win it.
“There’s a lot of excitement building around this team and where we’re going. We’ve been building over the last three, four, five years to get to where we are now and it feels like we’re starting to turn a corner in terms of getting wins from more of the narrow games, which is great.
“Against South Africa, we’re going to have to be at our best again and carry that same belief because it might be another narrow game. Australia managed to beat South Africa twice in the summer and we’ve managed to find a way to beat Australia so why can’t we do the same again this weekend? It’s a great challenge for us but we’ve got the belief we can do it.”
Wales have been dealt a blow after they confirmed that experienced hooker Ken Owens will miss the remainder of their Autumn Nations Series campaign.
Currently out with a back injury, the British & Irish Lions forward sat out Saturday’s 23-18 loss to South Africa, and has now had to pull out from the squad.
He was named in Wayne Pivac’s initial team for the 54-16 New Zealand defeat in October, but was forced out shortly after his selection had been confirmed.
And now the 34-year-old will miss the Cardiff encounters with both Fiji and Australia to boot.