Scotland flattered by ’99 comparisons ‘but it won’t give us a 5-point start on Ireland’

SCOTLAND ASSISTANT COACH Jason O’Halloran has played down as “flattering,” comparisons between the team preparing to start the Six Nations against Ireland and the Championship winning side of 1999.

Scotland were the last winners of the Five Nations Championship before expansion into its current guise. The coach of that side, Jim Telfer along with Andy Nicol and Alan Tait have all drawn a comparison between the ’99 champs and the current crop as excitement grows after an impressive November.

“This team will ultimately be at its best in a couple of years’ time when we get more guys up around that 50-cap mark and grow that leadership culture,” O’Halloran said at today’s press conference.

“Those are flattering comments, but it doesn’t give us any points when we start against Ireland.

“What it does is give us in terms of combinations is real confidence, which is crucial for the trust element you need in these big games. But it won’t give us a five point start on Ireland, so it’s of no real tangible benefit unless we perform really well.”

That performance, O’Halloran says, is fed by an improved off-the-ball workrate as well as ball-handling standards rising to make their exciting backs even more dangerous. The Kiwi points to a late Stuart Hogg try (from 4.00 in the clip below) in the November win over Georgia as the perfect example of how Scottish players are now working harder in attack.

Source: Scottish Rugby/YouTube

“We had four players in support of that line-break tells you a lot about the mindset of our attack now. The excitement and intensity the guys brought was something that was crucial to our autumn Tests.

“The boys just want to go out and express themselves. If we can have that again for this campaign we won’t die wondering.”

Munster’s Champions Cup tussles with Glasgow have resonated beyond that tournament and form a fascinating backdrop for the Six Nations opener. O’Halloran steered well clear of mentioning the bad feeling that has grown between the two sides and instead moved to praise Munster’s precision under pressure as the deciding factor in the games.

“Composure in the crucial moments and having a collective understanding of what we want to achieve when it really comes to the crunch are probably the key learnings we can take from the Munster games,” he said.

O’Halloran with head coach Vern Cotter. Source: Joe Giddens

“Their ability to see out games in the last 10 minutes is really impressive and the quality of their defence throughout.

“Ireland will be the same so we need to make sure we look after the ball but when we get opportunities to score points, we take them.

“They are an outstanding team. Beating the All Blacks as comfortably as they did in Chicago just tells you about how great a football team they are.”

Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

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