Ireland and Scotland look to positives

Ireland failed in their bid to land a third successive Six Nations, and Scotland in theirs to win three championship games for the first time in a decade, but both looked towards the positives on Saturday.

The Irish, who saved their best performance of the past six weeks to the last to beat the Scots 35-25, had already long relinquished the title after managing one point from their opening three fixtures.

However, injuries to a raft of players including Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and Iain Henderson handed opportunities to five new caps over the course of the campaign and meant nobody was panicking over their failure to contend this time around.

“For us, we expect to win every game and that’s a standard we’ve set over the last two-and-a-half years so we’ll look back at the Six Nations and be disappointed,” Ireland captain Rory Best told a news conference.

“But there have been a lot of guys who have had not a lot of experience, or no experience, who have learnt what we have built our success on. We now have a good pool of players who know what it means to win at test level.”

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said bringing the new players into a settled camp, particularly 22-year-old forwards Ultan Dillane and Josh van der Flier, who only recently established themselves at club level, had been invigorating.

He added it was exciting that those returning from injury would now be looking over their shoulder and singled out CJ Stander for praise after the South African-born flanker’s first five games were a revelation.

After last week’s momentous win over France handed Scotland the opportunity to win three games in the Six Nations for only the second time since the championship expanded 16 years ago, they could not match a well-drilled Ireland on Saturday.

The visitors, though, left their mark on the tournament.

“As much as we’re disappointed, there are things we’ll take from this that will really help us and once again, this game will be used to move us forward and to improve the next time,” Scotland coach Vern Cotter said.

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