Only a perfect Scotland performance will be good enough to secure a third successive RBS Six Nations win, centre Sean Lamont has claimed.
Scotland have so far followed up their opening-day defeat to England with wins over Italy and Ireland, but all three games have seen dips in performance in crucial areas.
At Twickenham the Scots suffered at the breakdown and paid the price in a 38-18 defeat, while Italy lost out 34-10 even though the four-try hosts were far from perfect at Murrayfield.
Scotland were frantic in defence at times against Ireland as a combination of an astonishing possession count for the visitors, teetering on 80 per cent during the first half, and a number of missed tackles saw their opponents bear down on the score-line.
It was only good fortune, as Lamont claimed today, that prevented them from crossing over before Greig Laidlaw booted four second-half penalties to secure an unlikely 12-8 triumph.
With Wales the visitors to Murrayfield this afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm), Glasgow man Lamont has warned Scotland cannot afford to rely on luck again.
He said: “Against Ireland, we were lucky at times. They bombed a couple of chances, but I want it to be more than just luck this weekend. I want it to be us doing everything right – us making no errors. That’s the only way we are going to beat Wales.”
Scotland’s defensive coach Matt Taylor also warned the team simply cannot afford to take any more chances with Wales’ powerful strike runners like George North and Alex Cuthbert.
He said: “As a defensive coach, there were a number of situations against Ireland I was unhappy with, such as players falling off tackles, but the one thing I will say was that our ability to scramble and ability to get back and regroup was fantastic. That says a lot about the group and their commitment to one another.
“We have had to work hard with that. It hasn’t happened overnight. It’s been a process since we got here in the autumn. The guys are starting to buy into the system and it’s paying dividends, but the scramble is not the type of thing we can do game after game.
“Against Wales, we now need to make sure we make those one-on-one tackles, especially against their big guys, or we’ll put ourselves under a lot of stress.”
Scotland will now hope to marry their defensive prowess with the attacking threat that brought six touchdowns in their opening two games and notch up three successive victories for the first time since 1996.
Lamont, still feeling the pain of last year’s wooden spoon finish, added: “We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan, we want this to be something that will snowball. We’ve got to keep it going for everybody’s sake.
“This is certainly a lot less stressful than this time last year, that’s for sure.
“Rugby is always a damn sight more bearable when you are winning than when you are losing every week. It’s not a nice sport when you are being beaten all the time.
“Everything hurts more, injuries take longer to heal up – or at least that’s the way it feels.
“We are in a good place right now, but nothing counts unless you can back it up.”
Meanwhile, Wales Robin McBryde believes Scotland will be “a tough nut to crack”. The visitors have beaten Scotland five times on the bounce – their last defeat being in 2007 when Chris Paterson kicked seven penalties – and a comfortable win tomorrow could take them top of the championship prior to England hosting Italy on Sunday.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation. The boys were on the ball this morning, it was good,” Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist McBryde said, “but Scotland are going to be a tough nut to crack.
“I would imagine their confidence levels will be buoyed after the last win against Ireland. If they can win with that amount of possession and territory (Ireland dominated both areas), then I am sure they will be looking to build on that.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us – Murrayfield is never an easy place to come. I think both teams are building momentum, based on the last two results and looking ahead to the next two games. It could be a strong finish for either one of us.”
Key to Wales demolition of Italy in Rome a fortnight ago was the work done by a fired-up pack, and that unit has been strengthened this weekend through lock Alun-Wyn Jones and flanker Sam Warburton reclaiming starting places.
“We raised our game as a pack of forwards against Italy, and I think we are in a good place at the moment,” McBryde added.
“We are confident we can put Scotland under a bit of pressure tomorrow and ask some questions of them.”
Even though Warburton, Wales’ 2012 Grand Slam skipper is back, his back-row colleague Ryan Jones remains as captain, leading his country for the 32nd time – an ongoing record.
And McBryde feels the 31-year-old’s contribution to Wales’ Six Nations campaign cannot be understated.
“Ryan has learnt a lot from his past experiences as a captain and as a player,” McBryde said.
“We sat down and spoke about the autumn (series) at the start of this campaign. He was pretty disappointed with the autumn, but I think he has been able to put that experience to good use without forcing it.
“He has been able to focus on his own game as well, and he has been very effective on and off the field.”