Six Nations: Scotland’s John Barclay on how to win in Dublin

John Barclay rushes France's Alexandre Flanquart. Picture: SNS Group/SRU/Gary Hutchison
John Barclay rushes France's Alexandre Flanquart. Picture: SNS Group/SRU/Gary Hutchison
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John Barclay is one of five members of the current Scotland squad who have experience of winning in Dublin and knows there is no better city to finish a championship on a winning note.

“I don’t remember too much about the game itself but I do remember it was a good night afterwards,” said the flanker with a smile as he looked back at that 2010 game at Croke Park when the Scots spoiled Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day Triple Crown party and ended up painting the Irish capital red themselves.

John Barclay trains ahead of Scotland's match against Ireland in Dublin. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

John Barclay trains ahead of Scotland's match against Ireland in Dublin. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

It is the only time Scotland have won a Six Nations game across the Irish Sea and Barclay is hoping to repeat the feat at the Aviva Stadium on what will be his 50th cap.

Ross Ford, Al Dickinson, Richie Gray and Sean Lamont were also involved that day when the Scots added a gloss finished to a campaign that had promised much without delivering a victory until that point.

“That championship we’d played well in patches. We played poorly against France then there was that game against Wales where we had the biggest giveaway in world rugby history [the Scots contrived to lose despite leading by ten points with three minutes left].

“Then we could have beaten Italy and drawn with England. It was one of the championships when we should have done a lot more. When we got to the final game we thought we really need to do something, we felt we’d been written off.

“Ireland had lost to France and were disappointed but they were saying, well, we’re going to win the Triple Crown so it will all be all right. I remember the guys being a bit annoyed by that and thinking, we’d played too well over the piece to not win a game.

“Johnnie [Beattie] scored a great try and Dan [Parks] kicked that penalty at the end to win it.”

Some of the Scots players said a feeling that the French media had written them off helped inspire them to Sunday’s 29-18 win over France.

Barclay explained: “I don’t speak French so they could have translated anything. It was just one thing about us lacking power and that’s where the game would be won and lost.

“It wasn’t much and we don’t tend to focus on that stuff much, it was just something the players were aware of with social media now. You can’t really hide from it if you’re alive and awake, it’s always going to be there. Some people use it, myself not a whole lot.”

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter will name his team for Dublin later this morning, with Tim Swinson expected to replace the injured Jonny Gray at lock and Finn Russell probably struggling to come through the concussion protocols in a six-day turnaround.

Barclay’s expected inclusion for his half-century of caps is just reward for the Scarlets player who has worked hard to improve his game and force his way back into the Scotland set-up after a couple of years in the wilderness followed by the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup squad.

Asked if he was enjoying it more given his experience of being left on the outer for a long period, the former Glasgow forward said: “I’d say so. I always enjoyed it, and appreciated it. But when you’re in there you get in a habit, it almost feels like a club side, especially when you’re involved in Glasgow and Edinburgh it’s just an extension of that.

“I’ve come back and am a little bit older and maybe I do appreciate it more because I don’t have another 49 caps ahead of me for sure. I just try to enjoy it more.”

Barclay believes the move to Wales has been a fruitful one. “I’m playing better. I’m more involved in games now, couldn’t tell you why to be honest, maybe it’s the way the game is or the way I look at the game now,” said the 29-year-old.

“Having someone like James Davies [the promising flanker who is the younger brother of Wales and Lions centre Jonathan] down at Scarlets has helped my game.

“A lot of people say you must have helped him a lot but I kind of think it’s the other way around. He plays in, not a naïve style, he just plays what’s in front of him, and that’s a good way.

“Sometimes I maybe over analysed things and now I just try to stay in each moment and see it through. I think for the last couple of years my form has been reasonably similar, and I’m quite happy with it.”

Barclay has gone from an almost exclusively openside flanker to someone who is comfortable in all three back-row slots. He’s been utilised at blindside in this Six Nations and has even added lineout jumping to his versatile skill-set.

“I always did it a little bit but I guess opensides don’t jump that much,” he explained. “It’s just the nature of it. I played a bit of No 8 and did it there.”

Scotland’s solid maul defence has been key in this campaign and, asked where the improvement in a one-time problem area has come from, Barclay replied: “Maybe Wagga’s [assistant coach Nathan Hines] influence, he was good at that back in his day.

“It’s just a bit more detail, I wasn’t involved for a while so don’t know what happened before but it’s an area where teams have targeted us and we’ve coped pretty well there.

“Italy came at us and France as well, it’s a good measure of the physicality of a team and the togetherness of a team, how they cope at the stuff that’s not the glamorous side of the game, it’s about how hard a team work.”