Saturday, 19 March 2016

Ireland v Scotland - Preview

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Tommy O'Donnell replaces Josh van der Flier in Ireland's only change from the side which beat Italy. Captain Rory Best will play after recovering from a minor calf problem.

Duncan Weir starts at fly-half for Scotland, deputising for Finn Russell, who was forced off early against France with concussion.

Peter Horne, who impressed after coming on for Russell, is again named as a replacement, while Ryan Wilson starts at number eight ahead of Josh Strauss.

Scotland's third change sees Tim Swinson come in for lock Jonny Gray, who is sidelined by a torn pectoral muscle.

Alastair Eykyn: "These two need a big finish. The Irish started as back-to-back champions, but they could end the campaign as low as fifth.

"Even allowing for extensive injuries, and some carnival rugby against Italy, that would be a stinker of a campaign - and no way to finish off the Paddy's Day celebrations!

"After a slow start, Scotland are flying, and they have a golden chance to nail down three Championship wins for the first time in 20 years.

"The extra spice is added by two old friends going head-to-head. Kiwis Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter, coaching pals from Clermont days, are now trying to outwit each other on the international stage." 

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: "If we can get that top-half finish I'd be very happy that we've worked our way through a pretty challenging time.

"Hopefully that could give us a little bit of a platform into what is an incredibly tough second half of the year.

"We're going to play the top three teams in the world in six Test matches - three of those away in Africa, where we've never, ever won a Test match before."

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter: "I am probably more focused on the game itself than giving a review on the whole [tournament].

"We want to put in a good performance this weekend and we're focusing on that.

"We're not thinking about the [IRB] rankings either - just about the game. We're just concentrating on being good on the day, because being good on the day is what counts.

Ireland have beaten Scotland 13 times in 16 Six Nations fixtures.

Ireland's 40-10 victory at Murrayfield last year equalled their biggest winning margin against the Scots (they won 36-6 at Murrayfield in 2003).

The Scots have lost eight of nine Tests away to Ireland since the turn of the century. Their sole victory was a 23-20 win at Croke Park in 2010.

Their last win at Lansdowne Road/Aviva Stadium was a 17-16 win in 1998.

Ireland are unbeaten in their last eight Six Nations home games (W6, D2) - their best home run in the history of the Championship.

Robbie Henshaw has carried the ball more than any other back in this year's Six Nations. His 55 carries have earned Ireland 258m.

Ireland's tackle success rate of 92% is the best in this year's Championship.

They also boast the best scrum record, with 27 won and just one lost.

Victory would see the Scots win three successive Six Nations games for the first time.

The last time they were victorious in three consecutive Five Nations games was in 1996, when they won their opening three against Ireland, France and then Wales.

The only previous Six Nations campaign in which they won three games in total was in 2006.

Greig Laidlaw will captain his country for the 26th time on Saturday - surpassing David Sole's record for most caps won as Scotland's skipper.

Scotland are the least penalised team in this year's Six Nations, conceding just 35 penalties in their four matches.

Ireland
15-Simon Zebo, 14-Andrew Trimble, 13-Jared Payne, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-Keith Earls, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Conor Murray; 1-Jack McGrath, 2-Rory Best (c), 3-Mike Ross, 4-Donnacha Ryan, 5-Devin Toner, 6-CJ Stander, 7-Tommy O'Donnell, 8-Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: 16-Richardt Strauss, 17-Cian Healy, 18-Nathan White, 19-Ultan Dillane, 20-Rhys Ruddock, 21-Eoin Reddan, 22-Ian Madigan, 23-Fergus McFadden.

Scotland
15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Tommy Seymour, 13-Duncan Taylor, 12-Alex Dunbar, 11-Tim Visser, 10-Duncan Weir, 9-Greig Laidlaw (c); 1-Alasdair Dickinson, 2-Ross Ford, 3-Willem Nel, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Tim Swinson, 6-John Barclay, 7-John Hardie, 8-Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: 16-Stuart McInally, 17-Rory Sutherland, 18- Moray Low, 19-Rob Harley, 20-Josh Strauss, 21-Henry Pyrgos, 22-Peter Horne, 23-Sean Lamont.

MATCH OFFICIALS
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa) & Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)


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