Scotland captain John Barclay knows how to win in Dublin
It is not something the legion of Scots who cross the Irish sea every two years have experienced in eight years and, since the quirky Lansdowne Road, rugby’s oldest international venue, was transformed and thrust forward a couple of centuries in the shape of the spanking new Aviva Stadium there has been no success to raise a post-match pint of the black stuff to.
Scotland aren’t alone in that as only the All Blacks, and Wales in a 2015 Rugby World Cup warm-up, have beaten the Irish at their plush new home since England recorded the last away Six Nations win at the venue in February 2013.
That highlights the size of the task Scotland face this afternoon in banishing their away-day blues in the competition and backing up the rousing home wins over France and England with a result to announce genuine title contention and silence the doubters who view Gregor Townsend’s side as impressive but not quite yet the real deal.
As the Scotland squad flew across the Irish Sea yesterday there was only one member of the playing staff who could regale tales of triumph in both the city and the venue itself.
Skipper John Barclay is the only survivor from the Scots’ last victory in Dublin, a 23-20 win at Croke Park in 2010 just before the men in green moved into the completed Aviva. Last year the flanker tasted glory there when he captained the Scarlets to the Guinness Pro12 title as the Welsh province defeated Munster.
It may give Barclay warm individual memories to draw on when the team coach pulls up this morning but he insists that will not take anything away from the challenge.
“I think the Aviva is a tough place to go. Ireland have got a good record there. I don’t think they have lost a Six Nations game at home under [head coach] Joe Schmidt, so that’s impressive,” he said.
“It’s a hard place to go. My experience from last year with Scarlets was great for me personally but I was the only one there from this Scotland team.
“We know how hard this is going to be. Winning on the road is tricky. It’s something we have spoken about but we’re really looking forward to the challenge of what Saturday will bring.”
Barclay was just 23 when Scotland last posted a truly significant win away from home in the championship with that dramatic victory at the home of Gaelic sport to deny the Irish a Triple Crown in 2010.
“I’ve seen a few clips online from that game. But I haven’t really been thinking back to it,” he said. “Eight years is a long time and there’s not many survivors from their team, maybe a couple, and I’m the only one playing [for Scotland] tomorrow who was in the 2010 team.
“It’s the last time we won there so it will be highlighted, but I don’t think it has that much significance going into this game.”
Barclay is more concerned with the type of game Scotland will have to play today in order to get the desired result. The skipper was monumental at the breakdown against England but is expecting an even fiercer battle today.
“Ireland are better at contact,” he said. “They are always very physical, very accurate. That’s how Leinster have played in the past as well. On top of that, if you are Ireland you would probably look at last week’s game, so we will need to be sharp in terms of what we managed against England.”
Barclay said the squad had been energised by the wave of euphoria that swept the country after that Calcutta Cup classic a fortnight ago and insisted they head to face the unbeaten table-toppers with more anticipation than trepidation.
“The start of the tournament was far from ideal down in Wales. We knew the criticism we would get,” he said.
“But I said the very next day that we hadn’t become bad team overnight so it was good that we beat France, even though it probably wasn’t the best game of rugby. Then obviously the England game was fantastic. We have stayed true to how we play the game. The guys are buzzing. They know how exciting it is. They know the opportunity we have. But we’re also realistic about how hard a challenge beating Ireland in Ireland is.”