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Practice makes perfect as Scots put in some overtime

AS he marched apologetically to meet the media threequarters of an hour late, Kelly Brown, the Scotland captain, had no doubt where the blame lay.

"If anyone asks, it was Dean's fault, okay? If anyone has an issue, speak to Dean Ryan, he will sort it out for you," he said after the forwards coach had kept his players back for a bit of extra work.

A bit of detention? Maybe. The coaches are still not happy that the current side have got their breakdown work up to the standard they are demanding, while the extra-long session also included an extended period of work on the scrum, where the loss of Euan Murray, Scotland's most effective scrummaging tighthead prop, meant everybody had to be sure they knew how to give Geoff Cross the back-up he will need.

"Sessions sometimes over-run, that is just how it is," Brown shrugged. "We need to make sure that as a forward pack and as a team, we are in the best possible situation to play well. That is what we have been doing."

Which shows that whatever the result, it will not be because of a shortage of determination – something that Brown has already demonstrated against Ireland in the 2010 match when he kept being forced off the field by blood gushing from his broken nose and kept coming back to make sure he was there at the end when Dan Parks kicked the touchline penalty to snatch victory from a game that had seemed destined to be a draw.

On the other hand, that also shows how tough Scotland have found Ireland over the years. It was only the second Six Nations win over the men in green, and you have to go back to 2001 for the last at Murrayfield.

Hence the determination to get it right and the over-running training session. "It has been said by our coaches that we sat down at the start of the championship and focused on four areas that we have to get right. One of them is the tackle contest. We have been working hard on all of these things and if we win those four areas, then we will win the game," said Brown.

"Against England, we probably lost all four, against Italy, we won all four. It is a case of doing it again, and again, and again and again, doing it every day. If we do that, as individuals our skills improve and, as a consequence, we are stronger as a team. We have only won one game so we are looking at this one knowing that if we can make sure that we are at a higher level than we were against Italy then we will be in the game."

As for Ireland; they may have been forced into changes, but they are still a formidable outfit.

"If you look at them in the autumn and also in their first match of this championship, they were looking very, very strong. Scotland haven't won against Ireland in the Six Nations for a long time, so all their injuries and stuff doesn't really worry us.

"We need to play the team that is out there, we have looked at all of their squad and all of their players and it is going to be a very tough ask," Brown added.

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