Rugby

Grant Gilchrist urges Scotland to embrace pressure and hit back from Italy shock

The Scots have been heavily criticised after losing 31-29 in Rome.

Grant Gilchrist was dejected after losing to Italy on Saturday
Grant Gilchrist Grant Gilchrist was dejected after losing to Italy on Saturday (Adam Davy/PA)

Grant Gilchrist has told his Scotland colleagues to embrace the pressure of having to produce a positive response against Ireland on Saturday as they bid to banish “a dark couple of days” following their damaging Guinness Six Nations defeat in Italy last weekend.

The Scots have been heavily criticised after losing 31-29 in Rome and squandering the chance to set up a title shootout with Andy Farrell’s side in Dublin.

Instead Gregor Townsend’s team are now chasing a face-saving result away to “arguably the best team in the world at the minute” in order to avoid potentially finishing as low as fifth in the championship.

“We should feel under pressure,” said veteran second-rower Gilchrist. “Every time you put on the jersey you should feel under pressure, nothing for me changes.

“Through our own play we’ve set the bar a lot higher than any other Scotland team that I’ve ever been part of and that pressure is a privilege.

“It’s a privilege to wear the jersey, it’s a privilege to play in a team that’s good enough to be expecting to get huge results and to win all these big games.

“We’re not going to shy away from pressure. Pressure comes with big games and big moments and that’s why we play the game.

“We know the strength of the opposition, Ireland are arguably the best team in the world at the minute. With their home record, you can’t pick a tougher test but that’s a huge excitement for us.

Scotland face Ireland on Saturday five months on from their World Cup meeting
Scotland Scotland face Ireland on Saturday five months on from their World Cup meeting (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We know we’re going to have to be at our very best but that’s what we strive to be anyway. We need to embrace the pressure, embrace the challenge – I don’t think there’s any bigger challenge – and go out and deliver a performance.”

Gilchrist, 33, admitted the defeat in Rome was a tough one to swallow.

“In the immediacy, it was a dark couple of days,” he said. “No one cares more than the guys in that changing room and we’re devastated with how the game went and the opportunity we let slip by.

“It’s not a case of being able to move on too quickly but we had a really good day on Monday going through it and players taking a lot more responsibility.

“It was on us to look at solutions and come up with a plan so that we could put it behind us and it was great to get out on the grass on Tuesday and start putting things in place for what’s going to be… well there’s no bigger challenge.”

Scotland suffered a dismal defeat in Italy on Saturday
Scotland Scotland suffered a dismal defeat in Italy on Saturday (Adam Davy/PA)

Hours after their own defeat, there was further reason for Scottish regret when Ireland’s surprise loss to England effectively meant Townsend’s team had blown a golden chance to go into the last weekend of the championship knowing victory would bring them title glory for the first time in 25 years.

“You couldn’t give me more of a blow than losing a game of rugby for my country that I know we were more than good enough to win, but because of our own doing we allowed ourselves to get into a game where we came out on the wrong side of the result,” said Gilchrist.

“Yes, it was a double blow (with Ireland also losing) but the first blow was enough for me. I couldn’t be more devastated at the fact that we didn’t take care of what we were doing and we knew all that stuff (the result at Twickenham) was out of our control anyway.”