Johnny Sexton believes Stuart Hogg’s calamitous fumble at the start of last year’s Guinness Six Nations will help fuel Scotland’s motivation to end their dismal run against Ireland.
Gregor Townsend’s men lost 19-12 in Dublin on the opening weekend of the 2020 tournament after a self-proclaimed “schoolboy error” from captain Hogg cost them a certain second-half try.
The Scots were also beaten 31-16 at the Aviva Stadium in the Autumn Nations Cup in December and have won just one of their last 10 meetings with the Irish, suffering five successive defeats, including at the 2019 World Cup.
Ireland skipper Sexton admits his side have benefited from good fortune in recent meetings and anticipates Scotland will be reviewing mistakes – including Hogg’s blunder – in a bid to snap their losing streak on Sunday.
Asked how Ireland have maintained an edge on their rivals, he replied: “A little bit of luck, some fine margins – they were very, very even games.
“Both teams had big purple patches in those games and we probably capitalised.
“They will look back when Hogg dropped the ball over the line – that’s a big moment in that game, they could have won that for the first fixture of last year’s Six Nations, so fine margins often.
“In the last game we played them in the Autumn Nations Cup, they dominated a large part of the first half but were only leading 9-3 and we got a couple of scores before half-time and then a couple of scores straight after half-time, so we just capitalised on our pressure and they didn’t.
“They, I’m sure, will look back at those and say, ‘look at these opportunities that we had, we just need to be more clinical’.
“We need to just make sure we’re better this week and keep improving.”
With Scotland trailing 13-6 last February, Hogg dropped the ball on the try line as he attempted to dot down unchallenged before Ireland clung on for a victorious start to the Andy Farrell era.
Explaining the mistake after the game, Hogg said: “Just a schoolboy error. I’m gutted with how that happened. I can’t change what’s happened now. I just need to get on with it.”
Ireland travel to Murrayfield after bouncing back from defeats to Wales and France with a routine win over Italy.
Scotland, who stunned England on the opening weekend, have not played since an agonising loss at home to Wales a month ago, having seen their scheduled meeting with France postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the opposition squad.
Ireland vice-captain James Ryan has never lost to Scotland in five meetings but believes previous results are irrelevant.
“Every time you play a Test match it’s another opportunity,” said the 24-year-old lock.
“Once the game starts, how you fared against them in the past probably doesn’t count for a whole lot.
“I always think Scotland at Murrayfield is a different challenge, obviously there will be no fans there but it will still be a different challenge than if we were playing them in the Aviva.
“They are a very, very strong side who will be very motivated playing in Murrayfield.”