Dougie Fife has insisted that Saturday’s match at BT Murrayfield is just as much of a must-win game for Scotland as it is for Championship-chasing Ireland.
Scotland lost a fourth consecutive Six Nations match on Saturday, going down 25-13 to England at Twickenham, but the Edinburgh winger believes that confidence is still high in Vern Cotter’s side, and that they are not far away from putting in a complete performance.
“It was absolutely gutting to be in the changing room again after another loss,” Fife said. “But we are getting there, and it’s just that 80-minute performance that we’re dying for. At times we showed that we could put any team under pressure. England are a good team and we put them under a lot of heat. We scored a good try and think we left a few more out there. If we can click through 80 minutes then we will be fine.
“Ireland have a very good kicking game and we obviously have to work on our high balls. When it is on to run, we run and put them back under pressure.
“We go into this game as a must-win game. It’s going to be a big Test match.”
Fife admitted that Scotland began too slowly against England, but said he and his team-mates took confidence from the way in which they fought back to lead at half-time. “It was a pretty poor start by us. They came out pretty fast and the first ten or 15 minutes did not go our way at all. But we came together and managed to get that out of our system and then really put the heat on them.
“It was a fast start, but we scrambled well and we didn’t give penalties away, which we did in the last few games. We definitely ended the half on top and were in a good place going into the second half. But we lost an early try, and that was disappointing.
“We were in a great place going in at half-time. We were trying to relax a little bit, because you can’t keep that up for a whole 80 minutes. At half-time, you take a few minutes to yourself and then hopefully come out firing. At that time, we just said we had to keep going as we finished the first half.
“There was definitely an improvement. It just makes next week even bigger than it was going to be.”
Inevitably after home defeats to Wales and Italy and away losses in Paris and now London, there is a doubt about how confident Scotland can possibly feel against Ireland – but Fife insisted the squad would not let their heads go down. “You can’t have that,” he said. “We go into every game with our heads up, knowing that we can beat anyone. Obviously it’s not gone our way, but we’re getting there and just have to stay confident.
“We’re a really tight team. We like to stay tight. We win as a squad and we lose as a squad. Vern [Cotter, the head coach] is trying to get that into us, and Greig [Laidlaw, the captain] is really good at it.
“Every player just has to go and look at what happened and how to improve. During the week you look at your performance. Every day you train you look back at your own stuff, and he’s quite big on that.
“He always says our strength is in numbers: if we can stay as a group we can win as a group. [Against England] I thought we were much better than we have been, but obviously it’s still not quite there.”
Scotland were 7-0 down after five minutes when a Jonathan Joseph try was converted by George Ford, but fought back to level through a Mark Bennett score, with Laidlaw adding the two points. Ford restored England’s lead, but two more penalties from Laidlaw gave Scotland a 13-10 half-time advantage.
England improved after the break, and were ahead within four minutes when Ford touched down and converted. The same player stretched the lead to 20-13 with half an hour to play, and although Scotland continued to play attacking rugby, the home team had the last word five minutes from time when Jack Nowell touched down for the last score.