THE days when even mediocre Scotland sides could be relied upon to beat Ireland have long gone. The decade of dominance which saw the Scots go unbeaten in the fixture from 1989 to 1999 inclusive has been superseded by an Irish ascendancy; of the last 12 meetings between the teams, today’s home side have won only one.

Such a marked contrast, exacerbated at club level by the unrelenting excellence of four-times European champions Leinster, is a source of frustration for many in Scottish rugby. But, on the eve of today’s match at BT Murrayfield, Gregor Townsend saw it in a different light.

“Not a frustration, more of an inspiration,” said the Scotland coach, pictured. “When I was Glasgow coach we looked very closely at Leinster and asked ourselves, ‘Can we replicate that and potentially better it?’.

“Whichever personnel was playing didn’t really affect the performance – the level of cohesion was still there. Whether it was the first or second team, they were still able to be really competitive.

“We looked at the Irish model to see what we can learn from it, anything we can do better to get young Scottish players through. The four Irish teams only have a small number of foreign players so young Irish players get opportunities.

“You saw Leinster last weekend against Edinburgh,” he continued, referring to the game at the DAM Health Stadium which the visitors won 47-27, their 15th win from as many games in the URC, despite the absence of 17 players on international duty. “Not many people outside of Leinster would have known those players and they still looked very good. So there is still a lot we can take from that Irish model.

“It has not just been successful in the URC, they are the No.1 team in the world. They will have a long-term process to continue in the top one, two, three teams in the world for the next few years. Because these players are coming through, the way they play and the cohesion they play with means they will be very consistent at Test level over the next few years, even if they lose players to retirement. It is not based on individuals.”

Indeed, Ireland have lost key players to retirement since they became a force to be reckoned with, most notably Brian O’Driscoll. But they have simply continued to get better, producing more players capable of playing at the top of the game.

“I think Brian O’Driscoll coming through was a massive boost to Irish rugby in the early 2000s,” Townsend said. “[He was] a world-class player who took a team that was always very competitive and were really tough in the forwards to another level then.

“Now they have got skill, physicality and cohesion right throughout the team. They are not affected so much when players drop out or are injured. Look at Ross Byrne at Leinster when Johnny Sexton has not been available. That is because of the cohesion they have in their top teams.

“I have got a huge respect for them. I love watching Leinster and Ireland play. I love watching certain players in their team – their ability to attack and defend is great to see and learn from.”

Compared to that particular Scot’s view of Ireland, there are some Irish observers, including former players and coaches, who consistently voice their distaste for the Scottish game. Specifically, they regard at least some Scotland players as arrogant, a charge that Townsend cannot relate to.

“No, I don’t see that at all,” he added. “I think we are inherently conservative and maybe pessimistic in our nature at times.

“There have been times, maybe, where we have been built up going to play Ireland and they have beaten us, and they have got that over us. If they feel we think we are better than we are, they have probably got the right to say that, because we have not beaten them. We know how good a team they are, but we have often not delivered our best performances against them.

“Three years ago in Dublin, we should have come away with at least a draw, if not more. We played well out there. Two years ago here we didn’t play that well, but it was 24-24 going into the last few minutes of the game. But we won’t get a win at the weekend unless we play really well.”