Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw believes local knowledge could give his side a slight advantage over Ireland at windswept BT Murrayfield this afternoon.
Severe weather warnings have been issued with winds of 45mph forecast in Edinburgh around kick-off time and the scrum-half is hoping his players’ experience of the unique microclimate which can emerge in the bowl of the national stadium could provide an edge.
“We’ll need to see what it’s like. I think it’s good for us being at home when the weather is like this,” said the skipper, who needs just ten more to go second on Scotland’s all-time points scorers list.
“The way the wind is at Murrayfield, sometimes it can be pretty tricky. Hopefully our experience of playing here a little bit more than the Irish boys, we can use that to our advantage.
“If it comes in like it’s meant to, it’s difficult, certainly more difficult for your nines and 10s trying to judge your passing game, your kicking game, everything really.
“It’s vitally important your half-backs give the team direction on days like that and make sure you get the ball in the right areas of the field to allow the team to score points.”
Laidlaw admitted that this match could be one that ends up being defined by the weather.
“Potentially, yes,” said the 33-year-old Clermont Auvergne player. “Everybody knows the way Scotland want to play the game. We won’t really deviate from that, but we’ve got to be smart and pick the times when we play, so we will get a gauge on the weather when we arrive tomorrow and set a game plan for that.”
Assistant coach Matt Taylor admitted that game plan could have to be altered to suit the conditions.
“[At yesterday’s team run] it was interesting. When we came here it seemed quite windy but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. But I believe it will be windier so it might have an effect. Both sides are playing in the stadium together so I wouldn’t say one team has an advantage or not. You just have to manage the game depending on whether you have the wind or haven’t got it and depending on how wet it is.
“It’s something we talked about, that we might have to adapt or some moves might have to be taken out of the playlist depending on how bad the wind is. We’ve had a discussion around that.
“It’s a bit more swirly than being completely one direction. Sometimes it’s a bit more one way, but it is more of a swirl. We’ll have people out here early to tell us what it’s like.”
Laidlaw, meanwhile, said that he and Finn Russell are relishing a contest with the visiting star half-back duo of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, which is now poised to be even more pivotal in those swirling gusts.
“They’re definitely right up there – two of the best in the world,” said Laidlaw, who toured alongside the opposition pair with the Lions two years a go.
“Conor is a big guy for a half-back so, when he does look to break, he’s strong. His passing game and his kicking game are both excellent.
“It’s a credit to both Conor and Johnny that Ireland have built a lot of their success around those two and their skill sets, their passing, kicking and running games.
“They will be looking to those two again, looking for them to provide direction.”
Laidlaw stressed this was a new game but feels that Scotland can take things from their home win over the Irish in 2017 and a defeat in Dublin last year which swung on the Scots botching gilt-edged try chances and conceding from interceptions.
“I think we’ve matured a lot, to be honest,” said the skipper.
“Bringing Sean Maitland back into the team is a real positive, in that respect. Blair Kinghorn was excellent last week and him being on the bench is excellent for us.
“But Sean is a big player. He’s played in a lot of big games for Saracens, for Scotland, for the Lions. He’s got so much experience. Finn has really stepped up in that area of his game. He’s always been an excellent player and he’s added some levels to that side of his game.
“I think going to France with Racing has shown that, with his performances there and his showing last week. That experience will be vital, we need these guys to give us direction and to not panic when the game is tight.”
Laidlaw revealed that he had a chat with Kinghorn after the hat-trick hero from seven days ago was dropped to the bench this week.
“I spoke to Blair. He’s clearly disappointed, as anyone is when they don’t get the opportunity to start for Scotland,” he explained. “He understands. The best thing for him is that he can still impact the game from the bench.”