Gavin Hastings fears Scotland could suffer a Leinster-inspired hammering from Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The province demolished Glasgow Warriors 55-19 in the Champions Cup earlier this year, with eight tries coming against the Scots at the RDS.
Leinster had already qualified for the knockout stages by this point, but showed a ruthless edge that saw six players cross the tryline.
While Hastings believes Scotland are an improving force after their victory over England last time out in Edinburgh, traveling to Dublin to face Joe Schmidt’s Grand Slam-chasing side is a whole other proposition.
“Leinster took Glasgow apart in the Champions Cup that day and particularly up front and that is the one Scottish worry I take into the game, I worry about Ireland’s driving lineout maul,” Hastings said.
“It is going to be very interesting, if you get an interception you could get a breakaway try, like Scotland did against England and get a try against the run of play. Scotland have shown they are capable of keeping any team out. It is going to be good.”
Hastings spoke for 25 minutes and weaved between outright confidence and downright pessimism. When you look at the fact Scotland have won just twice on the road in their last 37 Six Nations games, not including Italy, it’s easy to understand why.
Even the last time Scotland beat England to win the Calcutta Cup, in 2008, they followed that up the next week with defeat in Rome.
“I think I was reading, if you take the Italian games out of it, we’ve won 5% of our away matches [in the Six Nations]. It’s not a great record is it?” Hastings said, at the launch of the Guinness #madeofmore campaign.
“But hey, no time like the present to change it. This is our next opportunity. We didn’t have an opportunity a fortnight ago to win away from home, we had an opportunity to beat England for the first time in 10 years.
“Not only did we beat England, I would say it was probably a better performance than 1990, for the manner of victory, because they were up against an English side that had lost just once in two years. I think the manner of Scotland’s victory was as great as any victory Scotland have achieved over England. End of.”
What that has to do with Saturday’s game remains up for debate, though. As far as Hastings is concerned, beating England in Murrayfield is one thing; going to Dublin looking for a first win since 2010 is a whole other level.
“Personally, I think this is a huge, huge challenge, the biggest challenge that we face, a far bigger challenge than facing England a fortnight ago at Murrayfield,” he said.
“I just think Ireland are almost unbeatable at home right now and I think Joe Schmidt is… I mean I know Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell pretty well. I chat to these guys and they just say the most incredible things about Joe. If they say that Joe is the best coach they have ever worked for, then Joe is the best coach they have ever worked for. End of story. His record would suggest that as well.
“Before the England game, I hoped we learned something from last year, when we got absolutely mullered and now I hope that we’ve learned a lot from the Welsh defeat. Given a nice day like today, we can look forward to a cracking match.”
Scotland went to Cardiff with plenty of optimism following wins over Australia (2), France and England since last summer, as well as a narrow defeat to New Zealand.
However, only one win, in Australia, came on foreign soil, and the hammering they took from Wales in the opening round of the Six Nations showed once more the extent of their travel sickness.
“Time will tell,” Hastings said, when asked if that trend would continue. “I was down in Cardiff and it was a disaster. I think there was huge optimism going into that game, because of the performances in the autumn, but you play all your autumn tests at home and this is where, speaking about global rugby, I just don’t get it, it’s all to do with money.”
Johnny Sexton is usually on the money off the tee for Ireland, but he had an off day against Wales last time out. Hastings, a former goal-kicking full-back, does not expect a repeat this weekend.
“Johnny won’t miss four kicks, I know he won’t miss four kicks. I cannot believe the standard of goal-kicking now at international rugby. It strikes me that every kicker that plays international rugby has got the most extraordinary strike record and I only wish I knew how they did it.
“I have to be honest, at World Cups I kicked pretty well and my percentage was decent. All you can do is compare yourself against your own era and I kicked as many points as the majority of players and I’m sure my percentage was the equivalent.
“If you were playing nowadays, and I still maintain Owen Farrell is the best goal-kicker in international rugby bar none, every goal-kicker is going to have a day when he is not as successful as what they would like and it is a lonely place.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved