Gregor Townsend believes Scotland will need to make every moment count against Ireland when the two sides renew their rivalry in the Guinness Six Nations on Sunday.
Scotland will be contesting their third match of this year’s Championship at BT Murrayfield after their Round 3 encounter against France was postponed almost a fortnight ago.
And Townsend is aware of the challenge that the visitors will pose this weekend, with Ireland getting the better of Scotland in their last five meetings in all competitions.
That run of Ireland success against Scotland includes a 31-16 win for Andy Farrell’s men in the Autumn Nations Cup and a 19-12 triumph in last year’s Championship.
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But Townsend hopes his side can learn the lessons from their previous disappointments.
“They’re a really tough opponent, we’ve lost the last four or five games against them, so we know how difficult a challenge they’ll be,” said Townsend.
“It has been frustrating on a couple of those occasions when we’ve had a lot of play, last year’s Six Nations in particular we played some really good rugby at the beginning and end of the game.
“In the Autumn the first half hour we definitely imposed our attack on them, but in the second-half they had the upper hand. We know we’ll have to be there for 80 minutes.
“Every moment will count against them. They are a team with experience and now on form and with confidence, who arguably could have won their first three games.
“They won well against Italy but had a chance at the end of the Wales game and chances at the end of the France game to win.”
Scotland won their opening game of the Championship against defending champions England to clinch the Calcutta Cup before narrowly losing 25-24 to Wales in Round 2.
Meanwhile, Ireland lost to Wales and France in the first two rounds before bouncing back against Italy last time out, running in six tries to triumph 48-10 at the Stadio Olimpico.
And when reflecting on the 2021 Guinness Six Nations so far, Townsend hailed the high calibre of the rugby played by all of the teams despite fans being unable to attend the games.
“The standard of rugby has been very high and a couple of the games have been classics,” he said. “It certainly feels like a Guinness Six Nations with what is being produced on the field.
“We obviously miss the occasions, the weekends and the amount of people at the games, but I think it’s a step up from what we had in the autumn, with the standard of rugby, the spectacle and the intensity.
“It’s been a privilege to be a part of it and it’s great to see our players play well in both games, even though we didn’t get two wins.”