The Five Keys To Ireland Beating Scotland This Weekend
Three down, two to go – how are we all feeling?! We all hoped from the outset that a St. Patrick’s Day tussle in Twickenham with a Grand Slam would provide the perfect conclusion to this year’s Six Nations. While England’s chariot was derailed by Scotland, Ireland’s hopes remain intact – but now those pesky Scots want to ruin our fun too!
We’ll all be glued to TV3 (Virgin TV 103) come kickoff on Saturday, of course – but we’ve been getting ready by doing our homework! If Joe Schmidt is reading, he’s welcome to cog for the team talk, because we reckon we’ve got the five secrets to an Irish victory well sussed out…
A GOOD START
In last year’s clash in Murrayfield, Ireland trailed 21-5 after half an hour – a deficit they were unable to overhaul; two weeks ago, an identical 16 point gap left England with too much to do. It’s absolutely no coincidence that Scotland’s biggest scalps in the past 18 months have arrived courtesy of a blistering opening blitz; Ireland, who fell behind against Wales last time out, can ill-afford to be left in the blocks this time…
HALVES THE BATTLE
If Ireland’s pair of Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton can lay claim to the title of the tournament’s best half-back combination – and we certainly think they can! – then Scotland’s might be it’s most influential. With Finn Russell off-form and Greig Laidlaw relegated to the bench, Scotland were annihilated by Wales on the opening day; with both players at or near their respective bests, they’re back on winning form. The other 26 men on the field might be loath to admit it, but this game could well hinge on which playmaking partnership comes out on top.
SCRUM AS YOU ARE
A few weeks ago, Gregor Townsend had a full-on front-row crisis on his hands; no more. With WP Nel making his comeback off the bench against England, and Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson ready for their own returns, the Scottish scrum is suddenly looking like a force to be reckoned with. Ireland have looked rock-solid in the set-piece thus far, but any slip-ups in the set-piece are likely to cost them dearly.
HIGH TURNOVER COST
One statistical category you don’t want to lead is turnovers conceded, but Ireland finds themselves atop that list with 41. The Scots, meanwhile, have proven pretty adept at forcing them from opponents, including a mammoth 15 against England. We know it’s stating the obvious, but ball retention will be critical – and Ireland’s work in securing possession at the breakdown will have to be on point with the likes of John Barkley, Hamish Watson and Jonny Gray sniffing around.
HOME SWEET HOME
Eight years have passed since Scotland won a Six Nations game on the road anywhere other than Rome. Their last major away win in the tournament actually arrived when Ireland were still playing in Croke Park! Clichéd as it sounds, home advantage could be a massive boost to Ireland – and you can be sure the partisan crowd will be doing their bit in the stands. The Irish players, meanwhile, haven’t had to leave the country since the opening day of the tournament; one can scarcely imagine a smoother approach to this crunch tie...
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