Humiliated last year – now Scots can find redemption

Ross Ford will win his 99th cap for Scotland when he starts against Ireland
Ross Ford will win his 99th cap for Scotland when he starts against Ireland
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Ross Ford insists Scotland will set out to address the humiliation of last year’s last-day RBS Six Nations defeat by Ireland when they run out in Dublin tomorrow.

Joe Schmidt’s title-chasers dished out a 40-10 drubbing to the Dark Blues 12 months ago as they edged past England to claim their second successive crown.

But it was a doubly painful result for Vern Cotter’s men as the defeat also confirmed a mortifying whitewash.

This time, though, the fortunes of both teams are heading in the opposite directions.

The Irish seem to have lost their way since inspirational skipper Paul O’Connell’s retirement, letting their title slip on the back of a campaign that has so far produced just one win and a draw.

The Scots, on the other hand, have rediscovered their confidence after back-to-back triumphs over Italy and France and are now looking for their first hat-trick of victories in 20 years.

And hooker Ford wants to complete the turn around with revenge for last year’s thumping.

He said : “We will use last season’s game a little bit for motivation. It has been mentioned. It would be silly if you didn’t look back at it.

“It was a poor performance from us. But this time we are a far better team than we were then.

“We just want to do ourselves justice by putting in a good performance.

“I think they’re going through a bit of a transition. They have lost a few key members of the squad. But they are still a dangerous team who don’t make too many mistakes.

“We’ve got a fairly settled squad but we tend to focus on what we can do, rather than getting too carried away with the opposition. We understand what their threats are but it always comes back to what we can affect during the game.

“It does help that we’re fairly settled and it seems to work for us, so we’ll just carry on in that vain.”

And Matt Taylor, Cotter’s specialist defence coach, believes the Scottish XV which runs out at the Aviva Stadium is in much better shape to cope with Schmidt’s line-up.

“Last year was a combination of things, unfortunately,” he explained. “It was the last game of the tournament. We performed reasonably in the first couple of games but through dwindling confidence and injuries we probably played our worst game of the season against the best team.

“They needed a certain amount of points to win the title and we weren’t up to it. We were disappointed in that performance but we are certainly right up for this game.”

What is certain, though, is the Scots will need to maintain their impressive levels of self-control if they are to record their first win in Dublin since 2010.

Last year, Scotland’s downfall regularly stemmed from their inability to keep the penalty county down.

But those faults seem to have been ironed out, with the Dark Blues the cleanest of the six nations so far, having won eight more penalties than they have conceded across their four games.

Taylor said: “Discipline has been a real focus for us over the last year and it’s starting to bear fruits.

“We’re probably the best team in the championship for discipline this year and we were at the World Cup. Refs know that now, whereas in the past we were really poor and were maybe ready to penalise us.

“But we’ve moved on as a team. We’ve worked on our techniques at both the tackle contest and the scrum and it’s working.”

Ford will be presented with his 99th Scotland cap when he climbs off the team bus on Lansdowne Road and if you include the single appearance he made for the British and Irish Lions during the 2009 tour of South Africa, he will wrap up his century.

However, the Edinburgh forward if not expecting much fanfare. Asked if he was anticipating a special day this weekend, he said: “Not really. I don’t tend to look at the stats and the numbers while I’m playing. I just enjoy playing with the boys and winning games.

“There’s nothing special been done yet. I’m just going out to play the game like I normally would and put in a performance that I’ll be happy with.

“The century of international caps is not something I’ve really thought about.

“The 100 caps for Scotland does come up. Folk mention it. But again all I can do is perform to the best of my abilities and do my bit as part of the team.

“If that leads to more caps, then so be it. It’s not a target or anything. I just enjoy playing for my country.”