Allan Dell may still be an international novice but he has played enough Irish teams to know that Scotland’s forwards must be prepared for a battle of wits as much as brawn on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Edinburgh loosehead is likely to win his fourth cap when Scotland open the RBS Six Nations at home to Ireland as he continues to deputise for injured clubmate Alasdair Dickinson.
The South Africa-born prop played all three autumn Tests and, while he has never faced Ireland at Test level, has come up against the provinces in the Pro12 enough to have a rough idea of what to expect in a couple of days.
“Irish packs are smart, physical and I wouldn’t say they cheat but they push the boundaries a lot – obviously that can be called intelligent,” said Dell with a smile.
“So, we just need to be awake and aware of what is going to happen because you know that they are going to try and hold you round the ruck and hold you down – just all those little smart things that try to get you off your game.”
Scotland will hope to get on the right side of French referee Romain Poite from the start and Dell added: “We need to match them physically and we need to be smart and see what they are doing.”
Dell is under no illusions about the fact running out for a Six Nations match comes with a greater frisson of significance than a November Test.
“It’s an historic competition so the pressure externally and individually – as a team and as individuals – is a lot higher,” he said. “You are expecting the man next to you to up his game because you need to step up a little when you get to this level.
“I’m just expecting teams to be a little more accurate, because I think in November you obviously have your mindset of how you want to take a team forward but you also experiment different things, whereas coming into this competition if you make one mistake and lose a game the you are out the running.”
If selected, Dell is likely to be up against a man of his same age in the shape of young Leinster tighthead Tadhg Furlong, who will be winning his 12th Irish cap on Saturday.
“I don’t think I’ve actually ever played against him. I’ve only seen one game of his – the All Blacks game [in Chicago last autumn, when Ireland famously won 40-29] which is where I think everyone first really took notice of him.
“But from the clips I’ve watched this week: he’s a strong man, a good player, good around the park, a modern day prop. So, from the few little clips I’ve seen, people aren’t wrong putting him in with a shout for the Lions. Hopefully, if I’m announced in the squad [for Saturday] I can try and change that.”
Dell may well be leaning once again on the experience of his Edinburgh team-mate Ross Ford, the veteran hooker, in Saturday’s fierce front-row showdown.
“He won is 100th cap when I won my first one [against Australia], so that just shows how much experience a man like that has got,” he noted.
“He’s a brilliant player to go with that experience so having him next to you is just really relaxing. Also playing with him at club level, you know that if you are in a bit of trouble you can rely on him to help get you out of it.
“Ross doesn’t say much. If he does say something to you then you know you have made a mistake. But during the week we train through certain scenarios and so as long as you do what you have done during the week you know you’ll survive.”