HAVING won all three home matches in the Six Nations last term, and with the only “L” at Murrayfield in 2017 coming at the hands of the champions of the world, Scotland were expected to maintain those standards this time around. And, so it proved.

With the French edged out, Scotland made it two from two with that win over England a week ago. Green shoots, sunshine and spring in the air. Then back to reality.

Rather like the climatic change that fell over Scotland in the last week, so arrived the icy realisation that Gregor Townsend’s boys now face two away trips to complete their programme this year.

Scotland’s away record in the Six Nations has been abysmal. Indeed, it’s so bad there were only five nations the last time they won in Paris or Twickenham.

The win against England put Scotland back in the title mix. But, to get close, Scotland will need back-to-back wins on the road, starting with Ireland in Dublin next weekend.

Not since 2010 have Scotland won at the Aviva. However, for Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist, his team-mates and coach Townsend, an improvement on their last away day – to face Wales – is the only memory they need when it comes to demanding improvements.

“History tells us that the home games are where we’ve played to our best. Now we need to do it in Dublin. It’s going to take a massive effort. As good as we were against England, we’re going to have to be even better in all areas over there,” said Gilchrist, who has heard enough about Scotland not making good travellers.

“Going down to Cardiff, that was in our heads. I can only speak for myself, but I didn’t feel overconfident going there. I knew we hadn’t won there in so many years and knew it was going to be a big challenge. I don’t think it was an overconfidence thing. We lost two tries in quick succession and started forcing the game.

“I don’t believe any of the boys thought we would just turn up and win. If you did think that, you’re going to get into trouble very quickly against any side in this competition. If you go away from home without full understanding of the game plan and 100 per cent effort and commitment, you’re going to come unstuck because the standard is so high and teams all play so well at home.

“[Cardiff] was about taking that big step and obviously it didn’t happen. It’s been made even more clear by the way we’ve played the next two games.

“We’ve had great results at home; now can we go and replicate it on the road in an atmosphere that will be against us and in a place where they don’t lose very often?”

Ireland themselves have championship ambitions. Indeed, they have Grand Slams and Triple Crowns on the agenda as well, and have overcome the loss of some key pack personnel to win against France, Italy and Wales. So what challenges do the 21-times capped Gilchrist and his fellow forwards face in Dublin?

“We don’t look too much at what the opposition are going to do. Especially in the scrum, we spend a lot of time looking at what we’re doing, focusing on how our shape is and how we’re going to attack teams, rather than on how good a scrum England or Ireland have.

“When it comes to the hard stuff, there’s an understanding amongst the pack that if we don’t get that right, it doesn’t matter how many X-Factor players we have out wide. If we get done up front, we’re going to struggle to win games of Test match rugby.

“Things have been going well and we take belief from that, but Ireland will probably be another step up in that sense, the intensity their forwards play with. They have a strong driving game and their scrum’s obviously good as well.

“We’ve shown we can do it, but can we do it again away from home where physically it matters so much more? You get that emotion at Murrayfield, but away you’ve got to replicate the intensity without it.”

Looking at the green machine they will face on Saturday, Gilchrist continued: “England and France have big, physical ball carriers and one-out runners. They’re looking to run at you, carry off nine and dominate.

“Ireland at the breakdown are a different proposition. They attack the ball really hard, they clear breakdowns really hard. England are a bit more bodies on feet, they don’t compete too hard, they just present a wall and try to smash you all day, whereas against Ireland we’ll need to be better at the breakdown when we’ve got the ball. They’ll have guys coming in from everywhere putting pressure on, as we did against England and will hope to do again.

“Our speed to contact is going to be crucial; how we clear these guys out. It’s a threat England didn’t have.”

It isn’t every day you beat the Auld Enemy, especially as emphatically as Scotland did at Murrayfield, their first win for a decade over England. The opportunity to party wasn’t going to be missed, though for Grant and his fellow Calcutta Cup heroes, it wasn’t going to last too long.

“Obviously after the game you celebrate your win. You take the enjoyment from that great feeling and unbelievable atmosphere.

“But as soon as you get back into training, there’s another massive opportunity there for us and we don’t want it to slip by us because we’re thinking about something that’s in the past.

“We had a good night last Saturday. We enjoyed each other’s company, enjoyed the win, but now it’s how can we go over to Dublin and win again.

“The last two weeks have given us the belief in what we’re trying to do, but we also understand that playing at home is a different beast. Playing that style of rugby, we do it well at Murrayfield, now the biggest challenge is that in the Six Nations, against the team top of the table, we need to go away and replicate the same game.”