Back-to-back wins over France and England have propelled the Dark Blues back into NatWest 6 Nations title contention, but for Townsend’s team to fulfil the promise they have shown in recent months, they must overcome table-topping Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
That is easier said than done for a nation who have managed just two wins outside of Edinburgh and Rome in the 18 years since the championship was expanded to six teams. The last came against the Irish at Croke Park in 2010, but Townsend hopes he has managed to find a remedy ahead of this weekend’s Aviva Stadium showdown, having sat down with every member of his squad to remind them they do not need home comforts to be successful.
“Dublin’s got to be up there with the toughest venues you can visit,” said the Scots chief, whose side have suffered one painful journey this year, having being thumped by Wales in their campaign opener. “Ireland are a top-three team in the world and they have a very good home record. There are not many, if any, weaknesses in their team, so you have to be at your best to win.
“There are a few things we have done to address our away form. We’ve discussed it as a group, with the leadership group, with individuals as well. We’ve had one-on-one meetings with everybody in the squad to talk about away games.
“We’re all aware we’ve got a poor record in the Six Nations away from home, but some of these players have done very well away from home for Scotland — in recent times a win in Australia — and have done very well away from home with their clubs. Most of the players have done very well in Ireland; John Barclay won a semi-final and a final in the PRO12 with Scarlets last year in Ireland.
“It’s getting back to knowing what mindset, what preparation, is required to win away from home, because it is tougher. People will say it’s the same pitch, it’s the same team, but the stats show you in this tournament it’s tougher to win away from home. We’ve had one blip, we’ve had one experience where we didn’t get it right, in Cardiff. We’ve now got a second opportunity to make sure we make the most of it.”
Townsend has made one change to the side which regained the Calcutta Cup with the 25-13 win over England. Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn replaces the injured Tommy Seymour, but Townsend insists it is right the rest of his side hold onto their jerseys.
“They deserve to be rewarded. They have played really well in the last two games. They beat the number two team in the world with an excellent performance. They have that feeling of knowing what it takes to win. We’d like to think we’ll see another improvement this weekend.”