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Vern Cotter focusing on Ireland clash rather than assessing Scotland's progress

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter insists it is too early to assess how his squad have progressed during this year's RBS 6 Nations.

The Dark Blues travel to Dublin this weekend looking to record their first hat-trick of consecutive victories in the championship since 1996 - the old Five Nations days.

They opened this year's tournament with close defeats to England and Wales but confidence has undoubtedly risen following back-to-back wins over Italy and France.

Victory over Ireland could push the Scots up to seventh in World Rugby's rankings.

But Cotter was reluctant to start his post-tournament evaluation until after his side wrap up their fixtures at the Aviva Stadium.

Asked to appraise his team's results, the Kiwi said: "I am probably more focused on the game itself than giving a global review on the whole thing.

"We want to put in a good performance this weekend and we're focusing on that.

"We're not thinking about the rankings either - just about the game. We haven't got much time to get ready and it will be what it will be after 80 minutes.

"We know it's not going to be easy but other people can talk about that at the minute. We're just concentrating on being good on the day, because being good on the day is what counts.

"It will be good fun to sit down afterwards and review everything."

The Scots have made three changes to the staring XV which beat Les Bleus last Sunday.

Stand-off Finn Russell - who last just four minutes of the 29-18 win before a head-knock left him wobbling - is not risked while he recovers from concussion and is replaced by Glasgow colleague Duncan Weir.

Lock Jonny Gray is replaced by Tim Swinson after being ruled out with a pectoral tear, while Ryan Wilson comes into start at number eight in place of the benched Josh Strauss.

Peter Horne, who performed superbly at Russell's understudy after being thrown into the fray early, is again left among the replacements.

But Cotter is content with the men he has available.

He said: "Finn is still following his head injury protocol but Duncan has been training really well with the group and he's playing really well for Glasgow, so it's a great opportunity for him. He brings some energy and freshness to us.

"Duncan has got to change a few things. He's a great guy to work with - he's really open to ideas. He's got a good kicking game. He's been varying his passing game as well. It's exciting for him. Credit to his character - Finn's been starting in front of him, but he's kept working in the background.

"Peter played really well when he came on. It wasn't easy for him. He gets himself back on the bench and we're hoping he'll bring the same contribution whether it's 10, 12 or 13 during the game.

"Ryan probably has slightly fresher legs than Josh following the French game. We've had limited time to prepare, so we've gone for a bit of freshness over fatigue."

For Weir, Saturday represents an opportunity he is keen to grasp.

He was both Glasgow and Scotland's first-choice 10 until the emergence of Russell last year left him cast in the role as understudy.

But with a summer move to Edinburgh already signed and sealed, the 24-year-old knows he will soon be handed a fresh chance to display his capabilities.

Asked if he felt his Scotland chances were being put at risk by a lack of game time, he admitted: "Yeah, Finn went on a terrific run at the end of last season. The way he was performing, it was going to be hard to get a sniff.

"With Finn starting and me just getting 15 or 20 minutes off the bench it is hard to get a role into your game. On the decision making you might need to push a pass to make a point to try and play the following week.

"It's not something you could do steadily throughout a season and get real learning from. I am still quite young and still have a lot of learning to do but my play has evolved at Glasgow. Hopefully at Edinburgh I can continue my development.

"It is a huge honour getting back into the side and one I am looking forward to. We are going to last year's champions in Dublin and it will be a tough call.

"Hopefully a run of games would be great for me. That decision-making becomes sharper when you get a run of games."


From Belfast Telegraph