Gregor Townsend sets Scotland heroes a Dublin challenge

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Scotland coach Gregor Townsend allowed his players the weekend to celebrate Saturday’s momentous Calcutta Cup victory but wasted no time in tasking them with their next big mission.

The stunning 25-13 win over England at BT Murrayfield sparked euphoria throughout the land and Townsend was keen that all involved should savour the moment, without taking their eye off the looming challenge that now awaits in Dublin a week on Saturday.

Gordon Reid celebrates the Murrayfield win with Gregor Townsend. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Gordon Reid celebrates the Murrayfield win with Gregor Townsend. Picture: SNS/SRU.

BT Murrayfield’s new fortress status was cemented at the weekend, with a ninth home win out of ten Tests and a sixth successive in the Six Nations. However, nobody needs to remind Townsend that the Scots’ poor away record needs to be rectified if they are to push their way into the mix for this year’s NatWest Six Nations title.

“That is going to be the challenge,” said Townsend. “There is probably a twin challenge in that we have to look at Ireland closely, what we need to do to beat them and what we need to do to get our game in place. But it is also about how we do much better away from home. It has been an issue for Scottish teams since the Six Nations began. We have to make sure we play close to our potential. If that means we win the game, then brilliant. But if it means that we just put in a very improved performance compared to the likes of Cardiff and Twickenham, then that is a big step forward.”

The uplifting wins over France and a first over oldest rivals England in ten years to regain the famous trophy have partially wiped away the pain of that opening weekend 34-7 humbling away to Wales but in less than two weeks the Scots face a daunting trip to face a table-topping Ireland team who haven’t lost at home in the Six Nations for over five years.

“It’s not something new,” said Townsend of Scotland’s away record, which reads only two wins outside Rome on the road in the Six Nations era.

“Part of it is that it is tough to play away from home, as England found out here. All teams have much better home records in this tournament than, say, in November games or in World Cups.

“We took lessons from

Cardiff into the French game. The selection changed, more experienced players came back into the group and they have really helped us over the last two games. That has to be taken into consideration.

“As a group, we talked straight after that game about what we had to do better in terms of our mental focus. But we also said we would not have another opportunity for a month because we had two big games at home to play. We will turn our attention to that [Ireland] next week.”

For now, the glorious scenes of Saturday are at the forefront of Scottish minds after one of the greatest days in the history of the national team. A scintillating first-half display, masterminded by a resurgent Finn Russell at stand-off, led to two scores from try machine Huw Jones, with a Sean Maitland effort in between. The Scots raced to a 22-6 half-time lead before bravely repelling the English counter in the second half to the rapturous delight of the home crowd.

“It was a very big win on its own,” said Townsend. “It’s been ten years since we had that trophy so it is great that we got it back. For Scottish rugby, for the nation, this is our biggest game so it is a huge win.

“On the mental side, the belief that a win like that creates is going to be important. But it is also an affirmation of the rugby

we aspire to play, where we can get our strengths out on the field and the speed that we can play at. I think the players will leave that game realising they have taken on one of the best defences in the game and caused them a lot of problems.”