Scotland’s next target – in the world order as well as on the pitch – is Ireland and Zander Fagerson believes the Scots can go one better in the Autumn Nations Cup than they did in February in Dublin.
The Scots got as close as they have since their last win in the Irish capital in 2010 during the Six Nations meeting earlier this year, and the tight-head from Kirriemuir feels the Scots have moved on since that game, having won five of the seven tests played since.
Neither does he feel that Scotland have lost the momentum built during the year in the loss to France two weeks ago as they play their final test of the year.
“Looking back at that game in February, we had four or five opportunities in the last few minutes to win it or get the draw,” he recalled. “We definitely had chances, but international rugby is about taking those chances and we didn’t do that.“We’ve definitely grown as a team since then.
We’ve got a few new threats and improved in certain areas – particularly the contact area which wasn’t where it needed to be in February, when we let them off the hook a few times, so we’ve definitely been looking at this week.
“But it is a big opportunity against a top-class team so we’re looking forward to going there and hopefully finishing third in this competition.
“I’m not really thinking about what we have done before. This week the aim is to beat Ireland – maybe after this game we will look back and see where we have gone forwards or gone backwards over the year as a whole, but the aim this week is to win and we will go from there.”
Ireland have had a difficult Autumn Nations Cup with a loss to England and struggles against Georgia, but Fagerson knows they are still a formidable team.
“They are always a very physical pack,” he pointed out. “I have played against Andrew Porter for many years, Cian Healy as well, they’ve got James Ryan and CJ Stander the back-row, so I’m looking forward to a physical encounter.
‘Furlong will be a big miss for them’
“I think Tadhg Furlong will be a big miss for them, especially around the park although in Andrew Porter they’ve got two quality tightheads. But I always back our chances against them.
“We look at it with a bit of perspective. Georgia came out all guns blazing against them and they are a pretty physical team.
“There were a few things in that game where we saw potential opportunities for ourselves.
“I’m not worried about the backlash from them. Ireland in Dublin is always a tough game and we play them again in March.”
Having his brother Matt in the squad again has been a highlight for Zander, although he doesn’t have to do many big brother duties with his confident younger sibling.
“Matt is very self-aware, he is a big character and it’s great to have him in camp,” he said. “He keeps me honest and make sure I’m not eating too much at the buffet.
“I never feel I have to put my arm round him. If he is in the opposite team to me at training he is going to try to step me 100 times out of 100.
“I have to make sure my defence is sharp, and he knows that if I’m in the attack then I will run straight at him full tilt. It makes it more fun.”