Duncan Weir’s way back starts with tough test for Scotland

Duncan Weir has waited a long time for his chance but has trained as part of the Scotland squad and is prepared for a tough game. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
Duncan Weir has waited a long time for his chance but has trained as part of the Scotland squad and is prepared for a tough game. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU
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There was a time when stand-offs didn’t dirty their hands. They could even go an entire season without having to wash their pristine white shorts, so little did they involve themselves in the rough and 
tumble of rugby.

Not any longer. Duncan Weir boasts a nose that Rocky 
Marciano would be proud to own, so crooked it starts in one post code and ends in another, just another sign that rugby’s new-found physicality takes no prisoners.

But, quite apart from the bish and bash of the modern game, Weir may have good psychological reasons for having his nose bent out of shape. He has long played second fiddle to Finn Russell and, last weekend against France, he had to watch from the stands as his Glasgow colleague Peter Horne, a centre by trade, ran on to the field no more than four minutes into the match... in Weir’s specialist position.

The stand-off declared himself “hugely proud” of what Horne achieved against France. Coming from anyone else this may have elicited a polite but sceptical cough in the press conference but Weir is an honest soldier who is sincere about these things or, if not, does enough to convince a cynical press.

He wasn’t in the matchday squad against France and he hasn’t started a Test for Scotland since playing against South Africa in the World Cup but Weir gets his chance tomorrow afternoon. The 2014 hero of Rome, when his last-minute drop goal won it for Scotland, will enjoy a rare opportunity to stake his claim to the No 10 shirt in Dublin where he goes up against Jonny Sexton, one of the best in the business.

“We are going to last year’s champions in Dublin and it will be a tough call,” Weir says. “The guys are in good form and I have been here in training so I know the calls and the structures they have in place so it is not being thrown 
into the deep end, as I have been here throughout the championship.

“You can see the way he 
[Sexton] bosses people around him. Being a stand-off, that is one of the key roles. He is one of the guys that you try to see the traits of him and try to put them in your own game: your short kicking game and ability to see space and put the ball into that space.

“We played some great stuff in that first half last time we were in Dublin but in the second half Ireland squeezed the life out of us, made us play out of our own half pretty much.

“Guys like him [Sexton] and [scrum-half] Conor Murray have huge experience of doing that and have done it at British and Irish Lions level as well. He is a quality player who we have to keep an eye on.”

Weir is packing his bags and moving down the M8 to join Edinburgh in the summer, which must sit uneasily with someone who was born in Rutherglen, attended Cathkin High School and has chalked up over a century of appearances in Glasgow’s colours. In public, at least, he is enthusiastic about the move which should give the No 10 a little more game time rather than backing up Russell on the Glasgow bench, but he is adamant that he has business to attend to first, defending a championship with Glasgow.

Weir has trained with Scotland throughout, even if he wasn’t always called upon, and a recent run of matches for Glasgow has him in a positive frame of mind, in line with the rest of the Scotland squad who are looking for a rare third successive championship win.

When these two teams last took to the field, Ireland needed a big score to secure their second successive title and they got it, running four tries past the hapless Scots and racking up an impressive total of 40 points on the day. That final score is sure to be mentioned in the build-up to this match but what do Scotland have to do tomorrow afternoon to get their revenge?

“Our defence and set piece will be huge again,” says Weir, pinpointing two key areas. “That will be at the front of our minds. Ireland are playing with a lot of width in their attack so we have to be cautious with that and get our spacing right in defence and shut things down and not be too aggressive at times.

“If you are numbers down, jockey them to the sidelines, be smart doing that. Once we get the ball we have to play at tempo, get centre field rucks and move them around.”

It looks a little easier on paper than it will be in the heat of the moment in Dublin’s 
Aviva Stadium.