Scotland may have left Dublin empty-handed following a hard-fought Round 1 defeat in the Guinness Six Nations, but former head coach Sir Ian McGeechan believes there are plenty of positives to take into their Calcutta Cup clash against England this weekend.
The opposing fly-halves were the only scorers on the day, with Adam Hastings kicking the visitors in front in the early stages before Johnny Sexton replied with the game’s only try.
Scotland dominated the majority of play, but a distinct lack of clinical edge ultimately cost them as new Ireland skipper Sexton kicked Andy Farrell’s men to 19-12 victory in his first match in charge.
Indeed, Stuart Hogg’s knock-on over the try line somewhat summed up the nature of Scotland’s frustrating afternoon, but McGeechan – who had spells in charge of the team between 1988-1993 and 1999-2003 – was impressed with how last year’s fifth-place side performed.
“There’ll be a lot of disappointment in the team because they’ll think they should’ve won the match,” he said on ITV. “But they’ll take a lot away from that game.
“Defensively I think they looked far better than they have for two years and Ireland found it very difficult to get into any sort of rhythm. They managed the game well and they have things to build on now.
“A lot that they did looked good and there aren’t a huge number of things that Gregor Townsend needs to change heading into the Calcutta Cup clash against England next week.
“It’ll be mostly focused on the execution of things, being able to present the ball tidily, stopping the turnovers and being able to build the momentum. If they can get those things right, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
While Scotland were made to rue the fine margins that ultimately cost them the game, there was a certain sense of relief attached to Ireland’s unconvincing victory at the Aviva Stadium.
But while the 2018 Grand Slam champions may not have been at their bustling best in their Guinness Six Nations opener, former captain and fellow ITV pundit Brian O’Driscoll insisted getting over the line was simply the most important thing.
He said: “Huge credit to Scotland because they created most of the opportunities and made most of the play. It was a battle out there for Ireland, but they’ll be pleased with a win because that’s what it was about first and foremost.
“There were a few things that impressed me from an Irish perspective but for the most part they just had to roll their sleeves up and fight, and they did that.
“The back row looked good and the whole team put in a lot of effort. Largely, it was a game of attritional, up-front play and I’m excited to see how the team responds next week against Wales.”