Ireland’s Six Nations campaign continues this weekend when they welcome Scotland to the Aviva stadium this Saturday evening, kick off 5.00pm.
Having let a 17-6 half time lead slip away against France last weekend, Declann Kidney’s team will be looking to atone for that draw in Paris and set themselves up nicely for a final weekend trip to England next Saturday.
The game in Paris has taken its toll on the Irish squad and there is a number changes in personal for the visit of the Scots.
Hooker Rory Best takes over the captains armband from the injured Paul O’Connell while Conor Murray and Sean O’Brien will also be missing.
How Ireland cope with these setbacks will go a long way to determine whether or Ireland will win on Saturday evening.
While O’Connell is a huge loss, it is perhaps the loss of Sean O’Brien that will hurt Ireland most. O’Brien has been an ever present since he broke into the Ireland team and can, more than most, give Ireland huge go forward ball and momentum. It will be a huge test for Peter O’Mahony, who replaces the ‘Tullow Tank’.
While there is injuries aplenty, Ireland know that when they put their game together they can put it up to any side in the world.
The first 40 mins in Paris was the template of how Ireland could and should play. They were fast out of the blocks, tough and hard at the breakdown and ruthless when a scoring chance presented itself.
Ireland will look to the likes of Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney (exceptional against France) and Keith Earls to spark the team into life in the opening period of the game. If the backs can get the ball and run at the Scots, set the tone early and keep the intensity up then Scotland will be in trouble.
Scotland will, however, not fear coming to the Aviva stadium. In 2010 they famously spoiled Ireland’s Triple Crown celebrations when a last minute penalty stopped Ireland right in their tracks.
Andy Robinson’s side have been frustrating in this Six Nations campaign. They let good chances to beat both France and Wales behind them so far this season.
A feature of their play is the lack of control when they get into the oppositions 22. Their ‘white line fever’ has cost them on a number of occasions and if they can control that then they will pose a huge threat to Ireland.
Nick De Luca,the Edinburgh centre, who impressed off the bench against France, returns to the starting 15 with Sean Lamont moving to take up his customary wing berth in place of his injured younger brother, Rory.
While the draw in France may still linger, Ireland are narrowly selected to get the win on Saturday evening. Scotland will make them work for it. The loss of so many key players for Ireland will be another hurdle to overcome, but with the likes of Tommy Bowe, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney et al Ireland still have a number of world class players who can steer them to victory. Ireland by 5.
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), D Ryan (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), P O’Mahony (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster).
Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), S Jennings (Leinster), T O’Leary (Munster), R O’Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).
Scotland : Stuart Hogg, Lee Jones, Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay, Ross Rennie, David Denton.
Replacements : Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Al Kellock, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans.