Scotland must hit the ground running in their World Cup warm-up games and finally put their Six Nations nightmare to bed, assistant coach Duncan Hodge has said.
Vern Cotter’s side suffered a whitewash earlier this year but will hope to erase those painful memories when they begin their preparations for the World Cup in England against Ireland in Dublin today.
It is the first of four matches, with home-and-away games with Italy to follow before Scotland head to Paris to face France to make their final adjustments ahead of their Pool B opener with Japan in Gloucester on 23 September.
“Performance is important but playing well and getting some momentum is massively important for the squad leading into the World Cup,” Hodge said yesterday as the team set off for Ireland from Edinburgh Airport.
“The first 20 minutes against Ireland will be the first time we have been under severe pressure [this summer]. After the Six Nations a lot of the guys went back to their clubs and were put under pressure there.
“But there is a huge step up between the Pro12 and international rugby, so the boys will have to deal with that.
“However, we can’t hide behind experimentation. We must try to hit the ground running. We can’t afford to waste any time.”
Today’s game will come as welcome relief to Cotter’s group after a gruelling two-month training camp. While Scotland spent a week in the Pyrenees at the hands of a hostage negotiator, Ireland stayed at home.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has rejected any gimmicks or tricks in his World Cup build-up and to fine effect, according to back-row Sean O’Brien.
“There’s not a lot from the outfield that’s been thrown at us,” said O’Brien, preparing to captain Ireland for the first time this tea-time. “It’s whatever the management and coaches saw fit for the players.
“The last five or six weeks have been pretty intense and a lot of hard work. We felt we could get that done at home and approach it in the right way.
“I think it’s been pretty spot-on so far and the players are happy to get home a day a week and see their families, it’s nice to have that.”
Richie McCaw has banned all talk of his world-record 142nd Test appearance ahead of today’s Bledisloe Cup game with Australia in Auckland.
The All Blacks captain will surpass Brian O’Driscoll’s current mark of 141 Tests, but has sought to talk down praise in the build-up.
Australia stunned New Zealand 27-19 last weekend in Sydney with their first win over the All Blacks in four years: now McCaw and friends are out for revenge.
South Africa have an immediate opportunity to avenge their loss to Argentina in a return fixture in Buenos Aires today.
The Springboks lost to the Pumas for the first time in their history when Argentina beat them 37-25 at Kings Park last week, meaning they lost every game of the Rugby Championship in a World Cup year.