Joe Schmidt: Johnny Sexton will be fit for Italy match

Joe Schmidt: Johnny Sexton will be fit for Italy match

Cotter made Scotland tougher and took them from 10th in the world to fifth, while Townsend has developed a more adventurous, high-tempo passing style of play.

With Best's Ulster team-mate Jacob Stockdale among the scorers, Ireland bounced back from their harrowing loss to England in Dublin that opened the Championship but, while Best said the side were more like themselves, the hooker does not yet feel that they hit the high watermark of past year.

"Johnny plays on the line and some teams when they're playing against him, it's probably on the edge as well".

However, it was the Irish who emerged victorious in the second half after another intense 40 minutes of rugby with points harder to come by for both teams.

'I think we have alot of belief about what we're doing, ' Ireland captain Rory Best said after the game. Scotland also lost three throw-ins.

But Jones fumbled a restart from Jonny Sexton that looked to be going out on the full, and Ireland had their first foothold, although initially the Scots seemed to repulse them and won turnover possession.

Scotland finally forced some possession in the Irish 22 but Ireland willingly surrendered a soft penalty, and Laidlaw brought Scotland back to six points behind. "We are frustrated and disappointed".

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Russell said: "The first half showed how good we can be".

"I think winning this game was very important", said Best. "We're relying on other people now [to win the championship], but the one thing we don't have to rely on other people for is how we approach things and how we perform".

Finn Russell will play a characteristically avante-garde role this week as he flies back to Paris to play for his club Racing 92 ahead of Scotland's meeting with Les Bleus on 23 February.

His coach Gregor Townsend took responsibility, saying Scotland had to improve their set-pieces.

In Italy, Wales - who beat France in their opening match - dominated possession but scored only two tries in a performance that is unlikely to have caused too many concerns for their next opponents England.

Scotland never got enough of the ball in the final ten minutes to even threaten getting back into the game and by the end their attempts to strike from deep were frantic and disorganised.

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