Scotland are in a good place under Cotter
They hope a victory over Ireland in Edinburgh will launch their World Cup campaign
Scotland’s Ross Ford goes on the attack against Italy at Murrayfield during the Six Nations game last month. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
His debut in 2004 was timely as that year Scotland “won” the first of their three Wooden Spoons in the Six Nations Championship. In 2007 and 2012, they also beat Italy in the race to the bottom.
Six times since 2000 they have come fifth and their highest ever finish in the tournament since the Italians joined and cushioned them from being the out and out whipping boys, is third.
But Ford, like the rest of the Scottish players has moved away from despair and embarrassment to a more existentialist view. With so many knocks over the 15 or so arid seasons Scotland are defining their own meaning.
At the moment it is not even match by match but minute by minute and play by play.
“It would be a lot easier if we could win,” says the hooker. “We are here to win things and that’s why we are in it. But it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you still have to get up and get on with it. You get up on the Sunday morning and go again.”
Ireland played a central role in helping them to third place in 2013 when Greig Laidlaw kicked all the points as Scotland staged a fine comeback and sank Ireland 12-8. It was their first back-to-back Six Nations victories since 2001.
“We need to be realistic, look at where we aren’t good enough and try to improve,” says Ford. “We have scored tries during this Six Nations and managed to capitalise on things. It’s a huge positive to know we have pushed good teams close.
“There is no point getting yourself down as it doesn’t get you anywhere on the pitch. It’s about staying the positive and getting right back out and going after teams.”
Ireland may study the first half of Scotland’s game against England rather than the fall-off second period. The Scots led 13-10 before Stuart Lancaster’s side took off and scored 15 points with no reply. But all the noise emanating from Edinburgh is that Scotland possess belief.
“The margin of victory is very slim and we have come out on the wrong end in this Six Nations campaign,” says the hooker. “But we are not happy and we are not settling for that. We have improved from last year.
“This weekend we know Ireland will be very clinical and we know what to expect from them. It’s about doing it minute by minute and not getting too far ahead of ourselves.
“It would be great to finish the campaign on a high, especially at home. It’s a World Cup year so it would be a very positive note to end the Six Nations on. It would be a reward for all the hard work the coaches and the players have put in.
A sense that Scotland have positioned Ireland’s visit as much as the beginning of their World Cup as the end of the Six Nations is also tangible. The Lions hooker, who stepped in for the successful South African tour for an injured Jerry Flannery in 2009, sees it that way.
“We are in a far better place,” says Ford. “We are scoring a lot of tries and creating a lot more opportunities. If we were to win this game going into the World Cup, it would be a boost. We want to finish on a high at the weekend.”
A warning shot then for Ireland.