Cotter Hints at Nerves in Scotland Camp as They Prepare to Host Ireland
Last updated: February 3, 2017 by Leon Marshal
|Coverage:||ITV & BBC|
|Last season:||Ireland 35 – Scotland 25|
|Competition:||RBS Six Nations|
In the long history of fixtures between these two sides, neither has managed to assert clear dominance over the other – in the 132 games played, Scotland have recorded 65 victories, whilst Ireland have only managed 61. With the visitors full of confidence after an impressive string of performances in the Autumn, which include victories over the All Blacks and the Wallabies and a victory over South Africa earlier in the Summer, Scotland must be prepared to empty the tank and relish the physical challenge if they are to ensure that history remains on their side come Saturday afternoon.
The absence of David Denton has meant Scotland are in need of a new enforcer at the back of the scrum to give them the hard yards they will most definitely need if they are to overcome the Irish. Josh Strauss gets the nod over Scarlets back row, John Barclay, who has started nine of Scotland’s last ten tests thanks to a number of strong performances for Glasgow in the European club competition, whilst Fraser brown is preferred over Ross Ford at Hooker. Elsewhere, Huw Jones, influential in Scotland’s valiant performance against Australia in the autumn, comes in for Mark Bennet. Vern Cotter mentioned earlier this week that he could feel a nervousness within the group: his side know that that year after year they’ve failed to live up to expectation and now they are due a big performance. The likes of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell and Greg Laidlaw – not to mention the Gray brothers in the second row – must provide the impetus and impose a hard, yet shrewd game plan on Ireland.
Even without Johnny Sexton, Joe Schmidt’s side still exudes experience and class, which speaks volumes of the depth of talent in the Irish squad at the moment. Ireland go into the game in prime position; they emerged as the most improved side in the Northern hemisphere during the autumn tests and proved that they can play with enough accuracy, pace and tenacity to beat anyone. The back row partnership of CJ Stander, Sean O’Brian and Jamie Heaslip is formidable, 43-cap Donnacha Ryan is kept out of the match-day 23 with Iain Henderson coming into the back row, and Ospreys winger, Tommy Bowe of 67 caps, comes in to add some experience (not that they need anymore) to the bench. The halfback pairing of Connor Murray, who is probably just ahead of Ben Youngs in the pecking order for the Lion’s number 9 starting jersey, will pair with Paddy Jackson at 10 and look to pin Scotland back with their tactical kicking and force them to concede line-outs.
Fly-half Finn Russell has spoken of the high confidence levels in the Scottish squad ahead of this weekend’s home fixture against the Irish. With a large number of the team having recently qualified for the knockout stages of the European competitions, there is a real winning mentality about Vern Cotter’s side now.
The inclusion of Josh Strauss over John Barclay at number eight is the selection that has got everybody talking. Having started 9 of Scotland’s last 10 tests Barclay will no doubt feel a bit hard done by, however Strauss’s form in Europe, coupled with his abrasive ball carrying means that he gets the nod.
22-year-old Gary Ringrose lines up alongside Robbie Henshaw in the centres to make his six nations debut. The young Leinster man made his first appearance against Canada in the Autumn tests and scored his first international try against Australia a few weeks later.
Johnny Sexton has failed to make the match day 22. He is still suffering from the calf injury he picked up playing for his club against Castre in the European Rugby Champions Cup at the end of January.
|Scotland||Dell, Brown, Fagerson, Gray, Gray, Wilson, Watson. Strauss, Laidlaw, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Jones, Maintland, Hogg|
|Subs:||Ford, Reid, Berghan, Swinson, Barclay, Price, Weir, Bennett|
|Ireland:||McGrath, Best, Furlong, Henderson, Toner, Stander, O’Brien, Heaslip, Murray, Jackson, Zebo, Henshaw, Ringrose, Earls, Kearney|
|Subs:||Scannell, Healy, Dillane, Ryan, Van der Flier, Marmion, Keatley|
|Scotland in 2016||Ireland in 2016|
|7th||IRB World Ranking||4th|
|4 (3)||(at home) Wins in 2016 (away)||4 (2)|
|43 – 16 vs. Georgia||Biggest win 2016||52 – 21 vs. Canada|
|1 (2)||(at home) Losses 2016 (away)||1 (4)|
|35-25 vs Ireland||Biggest Defeat 2016||21-9 vs. New Zealand||31||Tries Scored (2016 – present)||21|
|25||Tries Against (2016 – present)||23|
|599||Combined Caps in Squad||771|
|4||2016 Finishing Place||3|
|16||Six Nations Titles||13|
- Scotland have three more Six Nations titles to their name than their visitors, Ireland. In spite of this, Scotland haven’t won the Six Nations since 1999 (back when it was still the 5 nations) whereas Ireland managed a back-to-back title defence in 2014-2015.
- Ireland will be hoping that their experience will help them over the finish line in the opening round. Their side is noticeably more experinced than Scotland’s, with 771 international caps compared to Scotland’s 599.
- Scotland’s biggest defeat to date came at the hands of their visitors in last year’s tournament. They lost 35-25 away at the Aviva Stadium on the final weekend, meaning that they only managed a 4th-place finish.
- Ireland’s biggest defeat of the year came against the All Blacks in the second test between the two nations over the Autumn international season. Ireland lost 21-9 after beating the current world champions in Chicago a couple of weeks before – their only loss on home soil in 2016.
Head to Head
|Last 5 meetings between the two sides|
|Date||Competition||Game Result||First Try-scorer|
|19/03/2016||Six Nations||Ireland 35 – 25 Scotland||Hogg 19′|
|15/08/2015||World Cup warm-up||Ireland 28 – 22 Scotland||Henry 15′|
|21/03/2015||Six Nations||Scotland 10 – 40 Ireland||O’Connell 4′|
|01/02/2014||Six Nations||Ireland 28 – 6 Scotland||Trimble 40′|
|23/02/2013||Six Nations||Scotland 12 – 8 Wales||Gilroy 45′|
Conclusion & Betting Tips
It’s shaping up to be a cracker of a game at Murrayfield in what is the opening fixture of this year’s Six Nations tournament. Ireland’s form over the autumn has meant that they’ve been tipped as favourites at the bookies. We agree, and think that they’ll manage to eventually weather what is sure to be a fierce Scottish storm. Try adding Jamie Heaslip as an anytime try scorer to get some extra value – top prices are currently showing at coral.