Six Nations: ‘Any victory in Dublin will do’

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What a difference a game makes.

While Scotland’s rugby team may not have broken their RBS Six Nations duck last time out against France, touchdowns by Stuart Hogg and Lee Jones mean that, as a bonus leading into Saturday’s trip to Ireland, every one of the back division has proved he can find a way over the try-line.

This will be the first time in eight matches coach Andy Robinson has fielded such a team and leading the way is Sean Lamont. But, while keen to add to his tally of eight tries, the Llanelli Scarlets ace insists: “I’d happily take a 3-0 win.”

Lamont reflects on his move back from centre to wing, saying: “I’m happy being back to where I’m most comfortable. You know what you are getting with me further out in the three-quarters and that’s some straight hard running.”

He is equally blunt on how Scotland would take any margin of victory. “Any team would take 3-0 away from home especially us. I’d rather take an ugly win than a pretty loss as it is almost harder to have a pretty loss. Pretty losses are absolutely rubbish, especially when you have played so well and done everything to win.

“Our recent visit to Wales was a big example and down there the boys showed so much endeavour. Unfortunately there were a couple of yellow cards at the wrong time plus bad penalties for dumb things. Then there was the disallowed try by Hoggy (Stuart Hogg). It’s little things like that. I’m not for excuses but I am hoping the bounce the of the ball will be on our side at one point and things will look a lot better.”

One of seven members of the starting line-up when Scotland won on their previous visit to Dublin, Lamont adds: “It shows we can do it but that was a couple of years ago and a lot has changed.

“What we can take confidence from is the style we have been playing in. We have started scoring the tries you guys have been going on about. That monkey’s off our backs.

“Obviously scoring tries is nice with young boys (Hogg and Jones) getting the chance to do it and it comes down to the style of rugby we are starting to play. In opening up those chances we are always going to be in a better position to score.

“What we have to focus on now is when we get those leads we should maybe then kick to the corners and put the pressure back on opponents rather than just keep playing and playing. Partly the try-scoring stems from extra familiarity with the structures but Scotland have always enjoyed throwing ball around and playing wide.

“It is, though, all very well playing pretty rugby. Sometimes you have just to do the basics and put the pressure on the opposition.

“That is the biggest thing we focus on because we know we can play. We just have to play in the right areas.

“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with attacking from your ‘22’; it’s great because other teams drop back and give you a chance.

“It’s when you come up against a brick-wall defence it is maybe better to kick to the corners and put the pressure back on so as hopefully they’ll make errors or give you a line-out further up the field.”

Lamont, who will be gaining his 64th cap, says Scotland will take the field well briefed on what to expect from the Irish.

Referring to how, last time out, in earning a draw in Paris, the Irish switched from a drift-type defence to rushing up into the faces of the opposition, blitz-style, Lamont said: “Maybe they’ll change for us as well. Because we like to play (expansively) and they’ll want to make it more difficult for us.

“That’s even more reason for us to get that balance of our approach right and among the things we have to be watchful of is Rob Kearney’s chasing high balls and with him on that kind of form we know what will be coming for us.

“Also, both Jonny Sexton and Ronan O’Gara are stand offs with big boots who love landing drop goals.”

Sexton is currently starting with O’Gara being used in an impact role and, between them, they have contributed 1271 points to Ireland’s cause over the years. Scotland’s top points scorer following the retirement of Chris Paterson and Dan Parks is . . . Sean Lamont, with 40.

Meanwhile, Lamont offered this update on younger brother Rory’s broken leg sustained against France: “Rory is recovering but Murrayfield is proving a bit of a bogey ground for him having been carried off for Glasgow (against Edinburgh on Boxing Day). I think he’s getting my share of injuries as well, poor lad.”

Ireland team to face Scotland on Saturday: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), D Ryan (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), P O’Mahony (Munster), T O’Leary (Munster), R O’Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).