Kelly Brown is ready to play through the pain barrier again, if necessary, to ensure Scotland achieve back-to-back RBS Six Nations Championship victories when Ireland visit Murrayfield tomorrow.
When Scotland last tasted success in the fixture three years ago, in Dublin, Brown, now elevated to captain, also tasted blood – quite literally.
“My main memory of that game is that I was on and off, on and off because I had a badly broken nose,” said the Saracens flanker. “I was trying to stop the bleeding for the whole game.”
The healing process was obviously helped, though, by the 23-20 victory that Brown is keen to repeat. “That was a very special day. I know all the guys are absolutely desperate to make sure we have more games and more days like that. Not just for us as a squad but for the whole nation.
“It was quite a few years ago but I recall we scored one absolutely fantastic try. It was a draw then Dan Parks nailed a penalty from the touchline. I was on the pitch when the final whistle went. It wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last time I had a broken nose!”
Wins have not been as frequent as Brown would have wished but, having been part of Scottish teams that achieved success in Edinburgh against Wales in 2007 and England a year later, there is a chance tomorrow to complete a home hat-trick against home nation opposition.
If focus has been on the breakdown areas where Brown leads the way in turning over possession more than any other player in the tournament – six times – there are three other aspects to be considered.
“Against England we probably lost all four things we are prioritising and against Italy last time we probably won all four. It’s by doing it again and again and again every day that individual skills improve and as a consequence we are stronger as a team,” said Brown, who declined to pinpoint priorities.
Meanwhile, Scottish cap record holder Chris Paterson was today warning that Ireland will attempt to stifle Scotland’s counter-attacking abilities by restricting the flow of quick possession.
Urging Scotland to put more emphasis on how Ireland played when opening the tournament with a victory in Wales, former full back Paterson said: “Ireland come after losing narrowly to England at home and they will provide a totally different challenge to what Scotland have faced.
“Ireland are a good side. The most important thing is to stress how good England were and the Irish performance against Wales is a truer representation of how good they are.
“I think Ireland will try and play a set-piece game, slow us down, hold us up in the tackle and use a big forward pack to dominate. We have not played particularly well in those areas in the first two games.
“We have had the spark to score counter-attack tries but now have to deal with the physicality of Ireland.
“I have no doubt Scotland can do that. Ireland will fear what we can do with quick ball in looking at the back three Scotland have.
“The tries we have scored off counter attack have been pretty special and they fear that.”
Whereas Scotland make one enforced change from the 34-10 win over Italy a fortnight ago, with prop forward Geoff Cross replacing Euan Murray, who declines to play on Sundays for religious reasons, Ireland include new caps in centre Luke Marshall and stand-off Paddy Jackson.
Paterson admits he is surprised that veteran points machine Ronan O’Gara has been left on the bench.
“I’d have expected Ronan to have been chosen over Jackson at No. 10,” said Paterson. “I thought they would have chosen Ronan to supplement the game they will want to play which is slowing it down.
“We will have to deal with slow ball better than we have at the moment (and) Ireland will try to hold up in the tackle.
“They will be trying to stop you getting back and that can be a positive and a negative.
“If Scotland are really abrasive they can make ground at every breakdown.”
Incredibly, Paterson missed out on selection for the British and Irish Lions – a rare blemish on a 109 cap cv compiled over 11 years.
Now the latest crop of internationalists have that incentive this summer when a safari to Australia is on the schedule and, just to remind them, tour coach Warren Gatland dropped in at Murrayfield this week.
Did that sharpen Scottish anticipation of a southern hemisphere sojourn?
Scots skipper Brown played down any Lions tour ambitions but admitted: “Everyone knows there is a Lions tour this summer and didn’t need to see the head coach to be reminded. I am just focusing entirely on my game to make sure we have as much success as possible.
“The win over Italy has given us a big lift; the next challenge is to make sure we back it up.”
No side has ever won on six successive Championship visits to Murrayfield and the bookmakers are indicating it won’t happen tomorrow with Scotland slight favourites, justifiably, as there is a new vibe around the team summed up by No .8 Johnnie Beattie drawing on the perspective of someone returning after 18 months on the outside looking in.
“It feels massively different,” was Beattie’s summing up in the immediate aftermath of his last outing. “It is very, very early days but we are happy with where we are.” And the attitude is summed up, he says, by prop Ryan Grant against Italy.
“Ryan got a heavy knock early on and was blowing a gasket but kept going.”
As Kelly Brown made clear at the outset . . . this is a team prepared to go through the pain barrier for further glory and a second win in their first three championship games for the first time since 2006 is the prize on offer straight away.