Brown: Scotland staying grounded
Scotland cannot afford to get carried away with their first RBS 6 Nations triumph in two years, skipper Kelly Brown has warned.
The Dark Blues beat Italy 34-10 earlier this month to record a first championship success since defeating the Azzurri back in March 2011. The four-try triumph has raised hopes that the team can bounce back from last year's wooden spoon disaster to mount a title challenge.
However, Saracens flanker Brown, who will skipper Scotland for the sixth time when they face Ireland at Murrayfield on Sunday, has pleaded for caution. He told Press Association Sport: "The Italy match gave us a really big lift, but it's only one game and we need to keep on working hard."
He went on: "As a player it is great that the nation are excited and proud of us and we need to take a bit of confidence from that win - but we also need to learn and keep on improving. As a squad there is no danger of us getting carried away with one match; it was our first win in two years. So we need to bring in a bit of realism."
Declan Kidney, the Irish coach, has travelled to Scotland missing five of the team that pushed England so close in their 12-6 defeat in Dublin. The 127-time capped Ronan O'Gara, meanwhile, has been forced to accept a place on the bench as his form for Munster and at international level continues to disappoint, with Ulster's Paddy Jackson taking his spot.
Brown, though, insists the visitors will come to Edinburgh packing serious quality, saying: "Of the guys they have brought in, while they may not have a huge number of caps, this season they have all been playing incredibly well in the Heineken Cup, which is pretty much international standard, so we're expecting a very tough game.
"I've been watching Ulster play all year and there's no doubt that Paddy Jackson has been absolutely central to their success, so they are fortunate as a nation to have so many good stand-offs. And with O'Gara on the bench, it's not a bad man to bring on in the second half."
Yet Scotland possess their own threats, especially with a pacy back three consisting of wingers Sean Maitland and Tim Visser alongside full-back Stuart Hogg. Brown said: "We need to get fast ball to out back three, especially against Ireland, because they are very good at the 'choke tackle', as it's called.
"When you are playing against it, it is really awkward. So we need to make sure we are at the contact situations really fast, we are low and we are aggressive. If we can do that, we can get the speed of ball we want, because our back three are absolutely lethal.
"Those three are all playing well and have some serious, serious pace. As a donkey of a forward, it's great to see these racehorses playing well."