The epic 27-22 victory over Ireland at BT Murrayfield on Saturday validated the widespread belief that this is the best Scotland team since they clinched the last old Five Nations Championship at the Stade de France 18 years ago. Another electrifying performance by star full-back Stuart Hogg, who scored two first-half tries to further elevate his already sky-high reputation, contributed to a stunning win over the confident All Blacks-conquering Irish and secure Scotland’s first opening win in the tournament for 11 years.
Having finally got one over his old friend, the Ireland coach Joe Schmidt who worked with him at Clermont Auvergne, Cotter is now targeting another match with personal resonance for him against the nation which has become his second home and to which he will return in the summer when he departs the Scotland job to coach Montpellier.
“There has to be confidence,” said the Kiwi coach of Sunday’s match against France, who lost 19-16 to England at Twickenham on Saturday. “It’s nice to be able to go from the first game with a win. The challenge for us is that we get back in and do an honest review of [Saturday’s] win and see how we can improve.”
Cotter’s Scotland came close to winning in France in a 2015 World Cup warm-up and beat them well at home in last season’s Six Nations. After a flying start against Ireland, which saw Scotland race into a 21-8 half-time lead thanks to an innovative lineout putting centre Alex Dunbar over in addition to Hogg’s scores, Cotter’s men had to dig deep as the visitors fought back to take a one-point lead.
The Scots responded and a couple of late penalties from the flawless boot of skipper Greig Laidlaw sealed a famous win.
“We looked like we were losing energy for a while,” said Cotter. “We lost purchase and we got a bit of a slip, but we managed to get it back. We dug in and got the win. Now we can move forward and try to get another win.”
There were no major injury concerns reported from the Scotland camp yesterday. Stand-off Finn Russell went off temporarily for a head injury assessment but was declared fit to return to the game and will undergo a final check this morning.
Hooker Fraser Brown had to go off a couple of times with an eye contusion, permanently on the latter occasion, but the problem has been resolved.