Nick De Luca’s to follow footsteps of legend Irvine

Nick De Luca and Ross Ford could, if selected, match Andy Irvine's feat of beating the Aussies three times. Ford and Irvine pictured below
Nick De Luca and Ross Ford could, if selected, match Andy Irvine's feat of beating the Aussies three times. Ford and Irvine pictured below
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Nick De Luca is eager for the chance to step out on Saturday and emulate a feat only once before achieved by a player in the history of the Scottish game when Australia visit Murrayfield for the concluding viagogo Autumn Test.

Between 1975 and 1982, the great Andy Irvine achieved three successive victories over the Wallabies. Provided he is selected when coach Scott Johnson finalises a back division selection that revolves around the fitness of winger Tommy Seymour, then centre De Luca, like hooker Ross Ford, would be in a position to equal what Irvine did.

In 2010, when Scotland survived a last-minute goal-kick miss by Matt Giteau to win 10-9 in Edinburgh, De Luca was on the field as a substitute.

Fast forward two years and he had a starting role when Scotland won a tour match 9-6 in Newcastle, New South Wales.

“The hat-trick wouldn’t mean much, as it is the win itself that would be important in terms of where our team are going after arguably a step back last weekend in losing to South Africa,” said 40-cap player De Luca, part of whose earlier career, coincidentally, was spent at the same Heriot’s club which launched triple Lion Irvine into the rugby stratosphere.

However, De Luca quickly acknowledged the opportunity to do three in-a-row against the Wallabies, saying: “To look back one day on a hat-trick would be amazing, but right now it is all about Saturday’s match.”

“Against Australia there will be more running, more off the ball stuff than against South Africa.

“Facing the Springboks, you have to make sure your shoulders are strapped on.

“You know the Boks are coming, that’s for sure. There’s less deception in their style of play. Our latest opponents represent very different kettles of fish, but they are both amazing sides.”

It is easy to detect in De Luca a relative soft spot for Aussie rugby. “I went out to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games with the Scotland sevens team in 2006 and lined up against them at under-21 level as well as in two full internationals,” he explained.

“Australia is a great rugby country and I love the way they play with a positive style, which is good to watch and good to play against.

“In some ways, though, they have made it more difficult for us by leaving out a few of their backs [for disciplinary reasons] and there are also injuries and suspensions compared to last week.

“Scotland might still be finalising a back division, but we have been training together for four or five days, which should make it straightforward to slot in and out.

“The Aussies are keeping us waiting with baited breath to find out who we are up against.

“Having said that, you do know a lot about teams across the world. Everything is there that’s needed to do analysis.

“Whoever they field we will be very much concentrating on what we can do to handle their attack. If we get that right I’m confident we can get a win. We should be more battle-
hardened compared to last week when we went into action with only two games behind us since South Africa were encountered in the summer.

“For them it was a tenth outing since the Nelspruit game and some of our players were having their first outing for a few weeks as well.

“That makes a difference, especially when you are playing the second best team in the world.

“If you are off your game they will punish you, but Australia also have a ruthless streak.

“Give Australia a sniff and they have some of the best attacking players in the world.”

Saturday’s match represents Scotland’s 11th and final outing of 2013. During the year Scotland have won four and lost six, whereas 2012 produced three wins and eight defeats.

De Luca says: “We definitely want to sign off the year with a win.

“Although we are looking no further than Saturday, getting a win going into the Six Nations (which starts with a visit to Ireland on February 2) would mean a buoyant dressing-room.”

And he added: “What’s more, beating one of the top Southern Hemisphere teams would bring a lot of psychological benefits.”

Indeed, that is especially the case as Australia’s previous outing was a comfortable win over those next Scottish opponents – Ireland.