Ireland must be “bigger and stronger” if they are to avoid falling prey to any unexpected setbacks against Scotland two years in a row, according to captain Rory Best.
Joe Schmidt’s side could even secure the NatWest Six Nations title this weekend, if they beat Scotland and end the day six points ahead of England.
Ireland blamed the bus arriving at Murrayfield 15 minutes late for their 27-22 loss to Scotland last year – and Best insisted his side have learned how to clear unforeseen hurdles.
“We must make sure we don’t let any distractions catch us,” said Best. “Little things, from a dropped ball in the warm-up to the bus breaking down; anything left-field. Last year we got caught cold. Getting to the stadium that close to kick-off was something really new to us.
“If we find something unfamiliar tomorrow we’ve got to go back to our process, trust our gameplan. Something always goes wrong, and that’s the beauty of sport: you’ve got to be bigger and stronger than that.”
Beat Scotland and Ireland will face England at Twickenham on 17 March gunning for just a third-ever Grand Slam. Best has insisted Ireland have few problems avoiding any such thoughts however, given the threat of a Scotland side that toppled back-to-back champions England last time out.
Best conceded blaming their late arrival for last year’s Scotland defeat was merely an excuse, and admitted that had proved a steep learning curve.
“You get into this environment and everything is put on perfectly; you get a police escort to the game so you don’t expect traffic to be an issue,” said Best. “And by and large you forget what it’s actually like going to and from a stadium, how busy it is and how much there is going on. For us it was a big learning curve.
“At the warm-up at Murrayfield we let things get away from us. And that is an excuse, because we fought our way back into that game, and took the lead with 15 minutes to go.
“Then we just breathed a sigh of relief, and at this level if you breathe a sigh of relief and go ‘this feels comfortable, this feels good, we’re in control’, bang, just like that, you lose control again. Good sides like Scotland will capitalise. They caught us at the start of the game and they caught us when we took the lead again.”