Scotland finished third in a mixed 2018 tournament that highlighted their inconsistency, having come fourth in the previous two editions.
They made the trip to Cardiff last year with high hopes after thrashing Australia in their final November Test, but suffered a rude awakening as Wales dished out a 34-7 thumping at the Millennium Stadium.
After such a chastening thrashing on the opening weekend, Scotland showed what they are capable of by turning on the style to beat France before lifting the Calcutta Cup with a swashbuckling long-awaited victory over fierce rivals England at Murrayfield.
They were unsurprisingly brought down to earth by all-conquering Ireland, then made hard work of edging out Italy in Rome.
To continue the trend, Scotland were a mixed bag in the remainder of the year and have a long list of injuries to contend with as they prepare to take on Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday.
John Barclay, Richie Gray and Hamish Watson are among the key absentees, yet head coach Townsend maintains he has the strength in depth to mount a challenge.
The presence of Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup shows Scottish rugby is on the up and full-back Stuart Hogg says the national team are ready to deliver.
“I think we are on the right path to achieving something incredibly special,” the British and Irish Lion said. “We have been working really hard over the last few years to get to where we are.
“I truly believe we can win the Six Nations but as players we are just looking at the first game against Italy and making sure we get off to the best possible start.”
Scotland have shown they can be the great entertainers and they will be expected to brush Italy aside with a swagger, but the acid test will come when they host Ireland a week later.
They will then make the trip to Paris and finish their campaign at Twickenham following a home clash with Wales.
Yet Scotland must show they can grind it out and prove they do not have a soft centre if they are to have any chance of dethroning Ireland.
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