Now Scotland eyes Irish scalp
REACTION: Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw has warned his side they will need to cut out the poor defending that cost them three late tries in their 33-20 opening day home win against Italy.
Scotland needs to raise the bar considerably if they are to have any hope of defeating Six Nations champions Ireland next weekend.
The Scots ran in five tries, including a hat-trick from wing Blair Kinghorn and one each from fullback Stuart Hogg and replacement centre Chris Harris, to lead 33-3 before leaking 17 points in the final 10 minutes after replacement prop Simon Berghan was sent to the sin bin.
“We dropped off a little bit in terms of defence towards the end of the game when we allowed them to attack,” said Laidlaw, who kicked three conversions at Murrayfield on Saturday.
“We’ll need to tighten that up looking ahead to next week’s game.”
Scotland will again have home advantage when they welcome Ireland to Murrayfield on February 9.
The Irish will be smarting from a 32-20 loss to England that saw their bid for back-to-back Grand Slams fall at the first hurdle.
But scrumhalf Laidlaw, speaking before Ireland’s defeat in Dublin was confirmed, had no doubt about the scale of the challenge now facing Scotland.
“We’re going to have to play for 80 minutes against the second-ranked team in the world, so we’ll need to be on the ball in terms of that,” he said.
“That’ll heighten everybody’s senses and make sure that we get that full 80-minute performance that we’ll need to win the game,” added Laidlaw, who plays his club rugby for French side Clermont.
The trio of tries from Kinghorn, a fullback for Edinburgh playing on the left wing for his country, saw him become the first Scotland player to score a Championship hat-trick since Iwan Tukalo did so against Ireland at Murrayfield in the 1989 Five Nations.
The Scots have also stretched their tournament winning run at home to seven matches, their longest such sequence since 1975.
But coach Gregor Townsend knows they must raise their game still further if they are to equal that streak with an eighth successive Murrayfield success.
“What happened in the final 10 minutes was disappointing,” he said, “but maybe that’s not a bad thing.
“We started with a solid win, scoring five tries, but we know next week’s challenge is huge,” the former Scotland playmaker added.
“We have to get the focus right, almost immediately.”
Scotland, who beat Ireland in Edinburgh two years ago, is likely to be without back row-cum-lock Sam Skinner, set for a scan following an ankle injury.
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Meanwhile, Italy will face Wales in Rome on Saturday, February 9 on a run of 18 straight defeats in the Six Nations.
Nevertheless, coach Conor O’Shea was in defiant mood following the Azzurri’s belated try-scoring flourish at Murrayfield that came courtesy of scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani, drafted into the starting XV when Tito Tebaldi pulled up injured in the warm-up, and wings Edoardo Padovani and Angelo Esposito.
“We’ll dust ourselves down and look ahead,” said the former Ireland fullback. “I can’t wait for next week.
“We’re at the front line fighting fights that people don’t think we can win, but we will.
“We had a virus that went through a number of the guys. I nearly had to carry Guglielmo Palazzani off the plane on Thursday. He was so ill,” added O’Shea.
“When we lost Tito before the kick-off, Guglielmo had to play 80 minutes.
“You can’t buy heart like that. These guys gave a huge amount against the odds.”
For veteran Italy captain Sergio Parisse, Saturday’s reverse was a 101st defeat in 135 Test appearances.
“Next week against Wales we have to own the game and keep the ball,” explained the No 8 after breaking Ireland great Brian O’Driscoll’s Six Nations appearance record with his 66th game in the competition. “Don’t give them possession.”