Rory Lawson is a former Scotland captain and columnist for Scotland Rugby News.

He played for Edinburgh Rugby, Gloucester and Newcastle Falcons, and won 31 caps for Scotland, including at two Rugby World Cups.

So often I have journeyed to Cardiff filled with expectation and optimism for a Scottish triumph. Yet, for over two decades, we have departed from the Welsh capital shell-shocked and shattered, reeling from painful defeats. This current crop of Scots are fuelled by a desire to rewrite the history books, eager to kick off the 2024 Six Nations campaign with a winning performance.

Despite the bitter disappointment of a premature exit from the Rugby World Cup group stage barely three months hence, Gregor Townsend’s squad harbours a belief in their ability to conquer Cardiff. While they are labelled as slight favourites by the bookmakers, one might argue that the Scots are stronger than that on paper. Nevertheless, the Principality Stadium stands as a cauldron, unrivalled by any rugby arena on the planet for atmospheric intensity and, thereby levelling the playing field.

This Scottish side possesses the minerals to thrive, yet they are acutely aware that they must take control of proceedings this weekend. When confronted by the passionate support of 75,000 fervent Welsh fans, their players seem to transform into superhuman versions of themselves, growing a few inches taller and performing with an intensity that borders on the supernatural.

The last time Scotland won in Cardiff in 2002 was a special day. It was special for my family because it was also Papa’s final Six Nations commentary. For anyone who knew Bill McLaren, or listened to the “Voice of Rugby” broadcasting on one final international, it was an extremely emotional day.

The Scotland squad exudes a sense of stability and cohesion, boasting considerable experience and several players in tremendous form. Now is an important period for Scottish rugby and for this group, looking to bounce back from World Cup anguish.

While Blair Kinghorn will be a huge loss, I like the look of Kyle Rowe since his move to Glasgow Warriors. He was someone who was impacted by the situation at London Irish, so to have overcome that turmoil has shown the grit and drive he possesses. I have been impressed by his physical strength, fleet of foot and finishing ability, but all of the games I have seen him play have been on the wing. Transitioning to fullback presents a new challenge and his head-to-head against debutant Cameron Winnett will be one to watch.

READ MORE: Sam Larner: Why Scotland are too reliant on Finn Russell

Warren Gatland’s Wales are the most changed squad on paper as we embark on a new 4-year World Cup cycle. No Dan Biggar, George North, Justin Tipuric, Leigh Halfpenny, Ross Moriarty, Jac Morgan or Liam Williams, but Gatland is the master of mind games and mindset, and he will have pushed the buttons of his fresh-faced charges all week.

In Gregor Townsend, Scotland have someone who knows how it feels to win in Cardiff. He was influential at fly half in 2002. That role tomorrow is once again in the dazzling hands of Finn Russell, and we all know how mesmerising he can be. He is also captain which brings with it a huge responsibility on such a momentous occasion. Finn will focus on doing his job to a world-class level first, but his management of referee Ben O'Keeffe will play a crucial part during the 80 minutes.

I hope that taking the captaincy from Jamie Ritchie will free him up to be the menace he can be in a mouth-watering back row contest. It is difficult to get the balance right when you are captain, but he will seek out that edge that he displays when at his best. During his time as captain he was occasionally guilty of getting on the wrong side of the ref during heated moments, and you can ill-afford that in these big games. He’ll be determined to put in a big performance. He’s a high-quality operator and a proud man - he’ll get the pack growling.

Looking at the championship as a whole, I am massively excited. It is the first opportunity for the teams to get back together after the Rugby World Cup. France and Ireland will be really hurting, so to have that as the opening match of this year’s Six Nations will see both teams wanting a big reaction after massive disappointments at the World Cup. It’s a really interesting time for the tournament, and it’s almost a blank slate for everyone to start again.