SCOTLAND’s Six Nations schedule in the period following their first two games was due to read fallow week, France, fallow week. Instead, after the enforced postponement of the Paris match, it has read fallow week, fallow week, fallow week.
Given that some players such as Glasgow lock Scott Cummings have been rested from club action during that spell, there could be a risk of being caught cold by Ireland when they visit Murrayfield on Sunday. While Scotland have had to kick their heels since losing by a point to Wales last month, the Irish bounced back from two initial losses in the tournament by beating Italy 48-10 a fortnight ago.
But Cummings himself is sure that the extra time on the training pitch has been put to good use by Scotland. “It’s given us an extra couple of weeks to focus on different parts of our game, wee things we can tweak,” he said. “I haven’t played since the Wales game, but there’s been a lot of pretty tough training here.
“We’ve pushed ourselves and it’s been managed well. There are certain times we’ll go full contact and certain times we’ll ease off.
“Because we’ve trained that extra week, we can add a couple of new things to our game – things the coaches have tried to adapt for us – so it’s given us more time to prep. We all still feel good, we’re training a lot and feel pretty fit, so we’re ready to go.”
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend will name his team for the match at lunchtime tomorrow (Friday), and it would be a major surprise if Cummings were not named in the second row alongside his former Warriors team-mate Jonny Gray. Presuming he is included, it will be a 20th cap for the 24-year-old, who only made his debut in 2019 but has already played three times against the Irish.
Those three games – in the World Cup, last year’s Six Nations and then the Autumn Nations Cup – have all ended in defeat for Scotland. But Cummings believes that the team has the best opportunity since he made his debut back in 2019 to pick up a win against the visitors.
“We’ve changed a lot of things over the past couple of years,” he added. “I always talk about us becoming tough to beat, and we’re definitely working on that.
“You look at results in the Six Nations so far and we achieved that against England. Then against Wales, we didn’t quite get over the line, but it was a very close game.
“We know it’s going to be a massive game against Ireland. They’re always a great team, and they probably haven’t changed that much.
“They have a lot of the same sort of players they have played with for the past five or six years at least, so we know what they’ll bring. They’ll keep possession constantly, playing away with the ball, so we’ll have to be very strong defensively and on form in attack too.”
Scotland displayed both of those virtues against England to win 11-6 – their first victory at Twickenham since 1983. Their performance in the 24-25 defeat by Wales was more of a mixed bag, but Cummings believes there were many elements of that latter match which can give the team confidence going into the Ireland game.
“Going into this match, the way that we dealt with some of the things that England were doing in our win down there at the start of the Six Nations is our starting point. We were really strong in a lot of those set-piece areas, and we continued that against Wales when we were really good in the line-out and there were some really good scrum battles as well.
“We know we have to be physical and that gives a target for the forwards going into the game. To be honest, I would say that is key for pretty much any team anywhere. If you don’t get at least parity up front, you are probably not going to win the game.”