There are any number of highlights to choose from that famous Calcutta Cup victory and everyone will have their favourite.
Finn Russell’s brilliantly floated pass to Huw Jones, the centre’s heady mix of power and pace to score his second or, many people’s high point of the entire weekend, the YouTube footage of Greig Laidlaw in an Edinburgh nightclub well after the event, attempting to rip his shirt open Hulk style and have a little sing-song while catching forty winks all at the same time.
Some things in rugby never change and thank goodness that, even in this professional age, players are allowed to celebrate a famous win in the traditional manner.
Laidlaw had clearly anticipated the question but still his answer, when asked if he had recovered, cut straight to the meat of the matter.
“Yes. I have recovered,” he replied. “I have been back in France for a week and have had another game under my belt (he kicked Clermont to victory over La Rochelle). It was a good night, it is why we play the game, to enjoy good times with your mates who work hard for each other.”
And now, as the little man pointed out, it is all hands on deck for the biggest challenge in this year’s tournament, Ireland in Dublin.
It had been a decade since Scotland last beat England but it is just ten odd months since Vern Cotter coached the Scots to a famous win over Ireland in last season’s championship, and even the manner of the win was similar. Scotland raced into a 21-8 lead at the break, thanks to a sneaky try by Alex Dunbar and two from Stuart Hogg, before resisting an Irish fightback in the second forty. Might the Scots learn any lessons from that victory?
“Clearly they have a few changes of personnel this year and we are away from home,” said Laidlaw setting out the obvious differences before highlighting some similarities. “The things we will take from that game is that we defended extremely well.
“Ireland like to keep a hold of the ball so we need to get the ball back as much as we can and keep a hold of it ourselves and we did that well in the corresponding fixture last year. That’s one area of the game we will look towards to try and get a foothold in the game this year.”
That is the problem with this Ireland team, they are a little like Barcelona because if you give them the ball you may not see it for a while. Although that is exactly what Scotland did against England, gave them the ball, kicking from hand on 38 occasions, ten times more than England. Thankfully Russell’s radar was on song and it will need to be again tomorrow. “Ideally you never have to kick the ball away but that is totally unrealistic so when you do kick you need to kick for a reason and I really felt that we did that against England,” explains Laidlaw.
“We certainly won that battle at the weekend. I think we kicked 32 times (the stats say 38), I might be wrong, but when you think back to the game you certainly never thought that Scotland kicked the ball 32 (38) times in the game.
“But it just shows that if you have the right mindset between attacking and kicking for a reason you can kick a lot and kick well but still attack very well.”
Ireland’s own kicking game is an offensive weapon. They will likely run through a few phases inside their own half and, if Scotland’s defence holds, either Conor Murray or Johnny Sexton will send the ball ‘down town’.
There was a stramash last season about Glasgow players targeting Murray’s standing leg when the Irish scrummy was in Munster colours but if he is looking for protection he’ll be disappointed. Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has already highlighted the need to pile pressure on the Irish half-backs.
If the Scottish defenders can get Murray moaning at the match officials then so much the better but all four halfbacks know each other from last year’s Lions tour and Laidlaw insists the Murray/Sexton combo are “good guys” .
“Serious about their rugby but they were able to relax as well, so a good balance….but I am sure that Conor won’t hold anything back at the weekend and neither will I,” he said.
Back in the 1980s Laidlaw’s “Uncle Roy” pretty much ruled one corner of the old Lansdowne Road after scoring a brace in the same spot back in 1984 to help Scotland to the Grand Slam. These are changed days, Ireland ranked third in the world and Scotland winless over there since 2010.
Brian O’Driscoll suggested that Scotland could not be taken seriously until they fixed the fault and Laidlaw doesn’t argue too vehemently.
“Very frustrating,” was how he put Scotland’s record of two Six Nations wins on the road (excluding Rome). “Clearly it’s difficult and we are playing against good teams but we have probably underperformed and that is the worst thing. In the past we have let ourselves down, we have probably underperformed in certain games and we understand we need an excellent performance at the weekend to be able to win the game.”
And replanting the Saltire in “Laidlaw’s corner” with another try or two wouldn’t hurt.