Scotland will go back to the principles that made them the best defensive team in the Six Nations for the ultimate challenge of the 2022 Championship in Dublin, says Matt Fagerson.
The No 8 accepts that Scotland have slipped from their best defensive standards but pinpoints the team changes and a penalty count they believe they can clear up.
‘We’ve maybe come away from our defensive DNA’
“We need to work a lot harder, especially on defence and defensive penalties,” said the Kirriemuir-raised back rower.
“Our defence has probably been the best in the Six Nations in the last couple of years and we’re still trying to develop it even more. But by adding a few bits and bobs we’ve maybe come away from our defensive DNA in the last two or three games.
“That’s been one of the biggest things. That last game (against Italy) was okay penalty-wise, but there are still things to work on.”
It hasn’t been the championship that the squad or the Scotland fans hoped. But Fagerson still thinks the progress is being made into the World Cup – where Scotland will again face Ireland in the pool stage.
“We are massively disappointed in the way we didn’t back up our England performance,” he said. “And then France was really tough. We obviously lost Mish (Hamish Watson) the day before the game and there were a few other little things.
“Watching the games you can see that anyone can beat anyone. We’re still definitely growing as a team.
“Our DNA is still there and we’re quite cohesive at the minute. Some of the stuff we’re putting on the pitch is really, really good.
“With this Scotland team, the last two years especially there have been massive shifts in our defence. And when things click, our attack is really good. It’s about finding that consistency.”
‘They have a ruthless streak’
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) March 15, 2022
But as Scotland have developed, so have Ireland, with a much more positive style from Saturday’s hosts.
“They have a ruthless streak now. You saw against Wales and even when they played France and took them right to the wire,” added Fagerson.
“They’ve definitely added a whole load of new strings to their bow. Jamison Gibson-Park at nine brings a bit of tempo to their game which is huge.
“They are trying to play a more expansive and high-tempo game of rugby, and if you give them the opportunity to do that then they can be really dangerous. But hopefully our defence will be able to wrap them up and slow them down a bit.”
Going into Dublin on St Patrick’s Day weekend is a tough ask, and the Irish will have their tails up, he conceded.
“We knew it was going to be the final day and things would probably hang in the balance,” he said. “Obviously we were hoping to be in a different position but it is what it is.
“If you look into the occasion more it’ll take away from our roles and what we’re going to there to do. We need to focus on ourselves and what we can bring. Our own energy, that’s probably the best way for us to go.
“They’ve have all the Irish fans celebrating St Paddy’s weekend, which is obviously a big occasion for them. The less celebrations they get the better!”