Scottish View: Hoping for win and better road show
After blowing the NatWest Six Nations Championship wide open with victory over England, Scotland will travel to Dublin full of confidence despite their abysmal away record.
Few outside the Scottish camp predicted that Eddie Jones’ side would come a cropper at Murrayfield, but a ferocious performance from the pack, a scintillating display from Finn Russell at out-half and Huw Jones’ devastating finishing laid the foundations for a long-awaited Calcutta Cup success.
If they are to take another scalp in Dublin however, they have some serious away day blues to overcome.
Their last win in the Irish capital came eight years ago, and since Italy’s introduction to the competition in 2000, the Scots have won on the road just six times. Four of those victories came against the Azzurri.
Former international Max Evans believes the win over England means not only are they going to Dublin hoping to spoil the party, but to create one of their own.
"It’s a big ask now going to Dublin, but the opportunity this win has given us means we’re going there knowing that if we do get a win we’ve put our hands up for a shout of winning the tournament," he wrote in his column in The Herald Scotland.
"The last time we won there we went over in 2010 with nothing to play for except wanting to upset the party in the last game at Croke Park"
"The Irish would have been happy with us not letting England get any points, but it’s a real chance for us now. The last time we won there we went over in 2010 with nothing to play for except wanting to upset the party in the last game at Croke Park. This time we have a chance of setting up a party of our own."
Captain John Barclay paid tribute to head coach Gregor Townsend in masterminding their success over England – "perhaps in years gone by we might have brought in one new move a week, but pretty much every week now we could have up to 10 new moves" – but is focussing on their upcoming "formidable" opponents.
"We have Ireland next and what a huge game that will be. They're in fantastic form and their supporters will be whispering 'Grand Slam' now," he wrote in his BBC column. "They're a seriously formidable team. Another day, another challenge."
Townsend has been lauded for Scotland’s long awaited Calcutta Cup win, but following on from the limp display in Cardiff in the opening round, knows that their away record is a huge cause for concern.
"There is a twin challenge – we have to look at Ireland and what we need to do to beat them, and get our game in place but also do much better away from home," Townsend said.
"It has been an issue for Scotland since the Six Nations began and we’ve got to make sure that we play close to our potential.
Victory in Dublin isn’t the be-all-and-end-all he insists, with the former Glasgow coach hoping for a level of performance that was absent in their last two away games, heavy defeats against Wales and England (2017).
"If that means we win the game then brilliant but if it means we just put in a very improved performance from the likes of Cardiff and Twickenham then that’s a big step forward."
One person who is more than familiar with the Irish rugby scene within the Scottish camp is assistant coach Dan McFarland. The English-born prop spent six years as a player with Connacht before joining the coaching team in 2006. He departed for Glasgow in 2015, and also held roles with Ireland U20s, Emerging Ireland and Ireland Wolfhounds during his time at the Sportsground.
He suggests that despite the close links he is professional enough to treat it as simply just another game.
"I was a long time in Ireland. I like Ireland, really enjoyed my time there," he told The Scotsman. "I know a lot of the coaches really well, a lot of the players. Does it have a special resonance? I just want Scotland to win. In all honesty, it wouldn’t matter who we were playing next week.
"It’s two games to go in the championship and everything on the line and I just want a Scotland win. I’ll do everything in my power to help that happen."
The 45-year-old does concede that Ireland will always hold a special place in his heart and grew up supporting the men in green.
"I grew up in England but my rugby supporting life started watching the Five Nations and supporting Ireland because that’s who my dad and grandfather supported," he said.
"I always supported Ireland growing up and then moved away and been away a long time. Your identity grows where you are and Ireland, obviously, because of the people I was involved with I supported Ireland then."