PRESSURE is the name of the game at Lansdowne Road today as Scotland seek to fortify the spirit with a win over Ireland that would kick-start their Five Nations' campaign.

Pressure on new captain Rob Wainwright, who has assumed the Gavin Hastings' leadership mantle. Pressure on goalkicker Michael Dods, who takes over that other facet of the Hastings retirement legacy. Pressure after defeats for the A team and Under-21 sides.

But most of all pressure on Jim Telfer, the SRU director of coaching, and much else besides. Nearly all of the bucks at Murrayfield these days stop at Telfer's desk.

Since he was handed ultimate responsibility for the national side after the World Cup - with coaches Richie Dixon and David Johnston working alongside him - Scotland have drawn with Western Samoa and, in whatever guise we care to call it, lost to Italy.

However, if this taciturn Borderer is feeling the strain, then it certainly did not show yesterday as the Scots went through their paces on the Garda ground at Lucan on the outskirts of Dublin.

There was always pressure, Telfer said, but it was mostly self-imposed. ``Victory is always important but it is not everything,'' he said. ``I am too long in the tooth to base my future, or Scotland's future, on one win. Even last year, when we came second in the championship, we were quite lucky in some respects.

``One small thing can change a game. Victory and defeat are always balanced on a knife-edge - victory and all that goes with it, and defeat and all that goes with that as well.

``The side that gets the victory gets the accolades but, often, there is not much to choose between the two sides,'' he declared.

If there is here an apparent contradiction to his oft-stated remark that is is not playing for Scotland, but winning for Scotland which counts, then that might, in itself, be an indication that he might be feeling the pressure more than he cares to admit.

``It seems to me that if we get a win tomorrow, then people in Scotland will be saying that everything in the garden is rosy, and if we are beaten then individuals will be blamed, but not always the right people.

``I would like to think that we will win and, more importantly, that we will play well, but in Scotland we are still running to stand still at international level.

``I've been in this business for 32 years and I know that we do not have the resources that other countries have at international level. We have to make a little go a long way.''

He added: ``The structure has to be sorted out. There is so much talk about the professional era but there seems to be little or no talk about the actual rugby. I'm a student of the game and it is a game which I want to see developing on an evolutionary basis.''

Ireland have not beaten Scotland since 1988. The two sides battled to a 6-6 draw when last the Scots were in Dublin's fair city but since then Irish rugby has enjoyed an injection of hard-nosed Kiwi coaching know-how.

Murray Kidd, ex Manawatu and Taranaki, is in charge with former All Black back-rower John Mitchell as his side-kick. By all accounts they have placed great stress on fitness and are hoping that their charges will not run out of steam.

But with Kidd and Mitchell at the helm, the traditional Irish chaos will be more akin to organised chaos than in years gone by.

As ever the game will be won and lost up front. The Irish field an experienced pack and a big back five, which should pay dividends in the lineout. But the back row are not overblessed with pace and, with Ian Smith in as a genuine open-side flanker for Scotland, the Scots have the opportunity to expose this Irish Achilles heel.

Gregor Townsend is the key man for Scotland. Given controlled possession the Northampton man must stamp his authority on the game from the pivotal fly-half position.

Richie Dixon said as much yesterday when he declared: ``It's crucially important that Gregor displays the maturity on the pitch that he has shown us on the training field.''

The midfield battle, too, where Ian Jardine and Scott Hastings are ranged against Jonathan Bell and the Kiwi Kurt McQuilkin, will be a real test.

But most of all, Michael Dods has to kick his goals. With a strike rate of five from six penalty goals in the 15-15 draw against Samoa, Dods has proved that he can do it. Better still that he should be converting tries but with international rugby so utterly dependent these days on a dead-eye goal-kicker, Dods the younger is the man on whom Scottish hopes and aspirations might well have rested by close of play today.

q Vintage Armstrong - Page 30.

q Leonard takes strain - Page 31.


Scotland - R J S Shepherd; C A Joiner (both Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians), I C Jardine (Stirling County), M Dods (Northampton); G P J Townsend (Northampton), B W Redpath (Melrose); D I W Hilton (Bath), K D McKenzie (Stirling County), P H Wright (Boroughmuir), S J Campbell (Dundee High School FP), G W Weir (Melrose), R I Wainwright (West Hartlepool), captain, E W Peters (Bath), I R Smith (Gloucester).

Replacements - K M Logan (Stirling County), C M Chalmers (Melrose), D W Patterson (West Hartlepool), S Murray (Edinburgh Academicals), A P Burnell (London Scottish), J A Hay (Hawick).

Ireland - J Staples (Harlequins), captain; R Wallace (Garryowen), J Bell (Northampton), K McQuilkin (Bective Rangers), S Geoghegan (Bath); E Elwood (Lansdowne), C Saverimutto (Sale); N Popplewell (Newcastle Gosforth), T Kingston (Dolphin), P Clohessy (Young Munster), G Fulcher (Cork Constitution), N Francis (Old Belvedere), J Davidson (Dungannon), D Corkery (Cork Constitution), P Johns (Dungannon).

Replacements - M Field (Malone), P Burke (Cork Constitution), N Hogan (Terenure College), D McBride (Malone), A Clarke (Northampton), H Hurley (Old Wesley).

Referee - B Campsall, England.