‘My proudest day in the Scotland jersey’ - Duncan Weir on his shot at glory in Italy
Duncan Weir looks set to return to the Scotland starting XV in Florence on Saturday when Scotland kick off their campaign in the new Autumn Nations Cup against Italy.
But the popular stand-off will be hard pushed to match the drama of his first appearance on Italian soil with the national side.
Back in 2014, all the pressure was on Scotland and Weir during a tough Six Nations campaign under the stewardship of Scott Johnson.
The opening two matches were lost to Ireland and France and the Scots went into the Italy game with an unenviable record of having failed to beat the tournament’s supposed whipping boys in Rome for eight years.
The home side led 20-18 going into the final minute as Scotland drove into the Italian 22. With Weir sitting in the pocket, substitute scrum-half Chris Cussiter fired a pass to the stand-off who executed a superb drop goal to turn defeat into victory and spark wild celebrations amongst the Scotland players.
“It was an unbelievable day, up there with my first cap,” recalled Weir. “It’s my proudest day in the Scotland jersey, by far. It was a great day and a tough old game, as we’ll face on Saturday. We know how big a challenge it is to go out there to Florence and perform.”
Weir’s drop goal was the last play of the game but what was going through the stand-off’s mind as the ball came to him?
“Myself and Hodgey had done a couple of drop goals the day before during the team run,” said Weir
“I had two coaching points, and they were to keep my head down and make sure I dropped the ball well - and that was it.
“I was very fortunate that I had a scrum-half in Chris Cusiter who delivered a bullet pass because the Italians were putting us under a great deal of pressure so those split seconds that I gained from his speed of pass were one of the key factors in making sure I could do the job.”
The contrast between the Scotland of 2014 and today is marked. This year’s model are chasing a fifth consecutive win but the side of six years ago were feeling the heat.
“We started that campaign in Ireland so positively, in my opinion,” said Weir of an opening 28-6 defeat in Dublin. “We ran them about and moved the point of contact really well. But we slipped up on two occasions in the second half and that ultimately cost us the Test match.
“The following week was a wet and soggy one at Murrayfield up against a strong England side and we changed a lot of our game plan that day to do more kicking. But we never really fired a shot and came under a bit of pressure from the media and public after that display [Scotland lost 20-0]. So getting that Italian win out in Rome was a great feeling because we were under a lot of pressure that day.”
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