The next international weekend looms large and for the Scotland squad it is another chance to get that win. They have to get a result, rather than just another performance, in order to stop the persistent questions and prove to themselves, and everyone else, that it was right to believe in Robinson’s vision.
“I’ve been involved in other squads, like at Gloucester,” hooker Scott Lawson tells me, “where it is the same. When you don’t get those few wins there is that feeling. In the first few games we have played well and have performed, but we have not won. We have not been gutted on the Monday morning when we analyse our performances.
“It is the little things; the little instances, that lose these games. Sometimes it can feel like you are banging your head against a wall, but we have not been massively disappointed with our performance.”
There is the feeling around this squad and its coaches that there is a job to be done, and they are aware of it. Through gritted teeth they assure us that they are conscious, as we are, that a win would lift the nation. There could honestly be no suggestion that anyone is doing anything other than their hardest.
“Look at the team,” Lawson continues. “There have been stand outs –Ross Rennie; David Denton; Stuart Hogg –but everyone in the squad has a part to play. I’ve got a role in the squad. I play most weeks for my club, Gloucester, but there is no hiding from it: competition is high. Ross has been top drawer, but I think I have kept putting pressure on him.
“It is the small margins. We have gotten here by our own doing. The tiny little things make a difference and we can look to the next big performance. We will keep striving. We respect Ireland for what they’ve done…”
As if he was handed the baton, scrum half Chris Cusiter continues as Lawson tails off. “We feel we owe a lot to the support and ourselves. Performances have been really good but there are no wins. We’ve scored some cracking tries but have conceded a few points and have to be better in what we do.
“We feel we have been causing problems. We certainly caused France problems. We will expect certain things from Ireland. We know they like a choke tackle and holding players up, looking to create a maul. They are determined there and it will be important to address.
“They also blitz, looking to cut off the pass. That is how Tommy Bowe scored an interception [on Sunday]. We expect more of the same. It will be a physical battle and their back row is in fine form.
“We do have our own weapons. Our pack has been playing particularly well and again that will be massive. Our second row and back row have got to continue in the same vein, being physical at that contact area and doing their best to have quick ball. We also have runners. Stuart Hogg did brilliantly even though it was only his second cap [against France]. Sean Lamont still has a lot to offer and Max Evans may be back in after his ankle injury. We have runners”.
Again Cusiter ensures me that the tempo of play is the key to the win. Like Lawson, he is in no doubt that Scotland’s way of playing will pay dividends and that the level of belief in brief given to the players is strong. Competition in both players’ positions is staunch, but neither seeks to demand that the starting berth should be theirs and neither moan that they are sick of the country’s expectations of victory. They are neither truculent nor full of excuses.
This seems to be a Scotland squad making it clear that the message will be the same and the style will match the finest points against France and England, games Lawson claims Scotland could have won.
Against Ireland the squad will undoubtedly play with the same tempo. Nothing new. Nothing revolutionary. The same expectations will be levelled at the back row and running will be demanded of the backs. Tempo. Hopefully Ireland will be destabilised and unprepared for this. Not having Paul O’Connell may help with this, of course.
“O’Connell is a great player and is definitely one of the best second rows anywhere in the World,” Cusiter agrees. “Ireland will miss him, but they have strength in depth. It will not be significant to us.
“It is about us getting results. A lot of people are putting in the work on the pitch and with the back room staff. We have been lucky to play to a packed out Murrayfield. Now there will be a lot in Dublin and they need to be rewarded.”
Scott Lawson and Chris Cusiter were speaking on behalf of GUINNNESS. To win the chance to represent your country at the 2012 GUINNESS Rugby Challenge, visit www.facebook.com/Guinnessgb. GUINNESS is an Official Partner of the Scottish Rugby Union.