Ireland v Scotland Six Nations: Matt Fagerson keen to spoil the St Patrick’s weekend parties as Scots look to tighten up on the penalty count
The final part of the jigsaw requires a win over Scotland in Dublin early on Saturday evening followed by a slip-up by France against England in Paris later that night.
Such a scenario would see Johnny Sexton’s side crowned champions for the first time since 2018 and likely consign Scotland to a fifth-place finish.
As far as Matt Fagerson is concerned, it’s not a pretty picture.
“No, especially when they’ve got all the Irish fans celebrating St Paddy’s weekend, which is obviously a big occasion for them,” said the No 8. “The less celebrations they get the better.”
“I probably don’t want to dive too much into what their crowd are going to bring on an occasion like this,” Fagerson added.
“We knew it was going to be the final day and that [the title] would probably hang in the balance. Obviously we were hoping to be in a different position but it is what it is.
“If you look into the occasion more it’ll take away from our roles and what we’re going there to do. We need to focus on ourselves and what we can bring, which is our own energy, that’s probably the best way for us to go.”
He would have liked to have been taking the field at the Aviva with something more tangible to play for but there is a determination among the Scotland squad to finish a mixed championship on a high by pulling off a rare victory in Dublin.
Fagerson returned to the Scotland starting line-up for the win in Rome last weekend after recovering from the foot injury that caused him to miss the home defeat by France. He played his part in the 33-22 victory which produced five good tries for Gregor Townsend’s side but there was also a smattering of unwanted penalties and it is starting to become an issue.
Official statistics state that Scotland are the most penalised team in the competition, having given away 46 across their first four fixtures. Next up are Wales on 44 followed by England (43), Ireland (40), France (38) and Italy (37).
The Scots conceded eight in Rome (Italy’s tally was seven) and it is the breakdown which is the source of many of them.
“We need to work a lot harder, especially on defence and defensive penalties, where boys are getting pinged for not rolling away,” said Fagerson. “Luke Pearce [the referee in Italy], we know, is very hot on that.
“But our defence has probably been the best in the Six Nations in the last couple of years and we’re still trying to develop it even more. But by adding a few bits and bobs we’ve maybe come away from our defensive DNA in the last two or three games.
“That’s been one of the biggest things. The last game [against Italy] was okay penalty-wise, but there are still things to work on.”
In beating Wales, Italy and England and losing narrowly to France, Ireland have shown themselves to be a formidable side with an adventurous streak which wasn’t always evident prior to Andy Farrell’s appointment as head coach. Townsend thinks that could make for more open game on Saturday and Fagerson knows Scotland need to be alive to their opponents’ attacking threats.
“They are trying to play a more expansive and high-tempo game of rugby, and if you give them the opportunity to do that then they can be really dangerous,” he said. “But hopefully our defence will be able to wrap them up and slow them down a bit.”
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