Andy Robinson has opted not to add Euan Murray to the starting XV to face Ireland despite it playing on a Saturday, instead sticking faithfully to the one that almost beat France a couple of weeks ago. Following Rory Lamont’s broken leg the backline has been slightly reshuffled with Sean Lamont on the wing and Nick De Luca starting in the centre.
The pack stays exactly as it is, which might come as a surprise to those of us who saw the scrum as the key weakness that allowed France to close out the game. It does however repay faith in Geoff Cross who has displayed a little more in the loose the last few Sundays than Euan Murray has been known to. It may also allow Murray and Lawson to operate as France’s bench did, hoping to get an edge in the scrums and perhaps lock down a few easy penalties late on.
Elsewhere on the bench Duncan Weir is unlucky to make way for Ruaridh Jackson, while Max Evans has recovered sufficiently from his troubles on and off field to provide utility cover. It’s quite an experienced bench now, if they are all fit.
Ireland will be without their (second) talismanic leader in Paul O’ Connell and new favourite scrum half Conor Murray, who hyper-extended his knee against France. You might hope for them to be slightly tired this weekend, given that most of the top Irish players are not used to playing back to back matches unless there is a Heineken Cup double weekend.
Tommy Bowe will be looking to continue his attempt to top Gregor Townsend’s try scoring feat by being the first to score in every Six Nations match in a tournament. Well, every one his team plays in. Young Stuart Hogg has said he is a fan of Rob Kearney, and now he gets a chance to face off against him while the Irish Lion is returning to the peak of his game. Scotland will surely be tested under the high ball, regardless of which fly-half Ireland pick.
We’re hoping for another fired up performance from Scotland in Dublin. The last time we played there, Scotland won. That day, it was recent retiree Dan Parks who grabbed the victory with a famous touchline penalty. Johnnie Beattie also scored a try in the game. Both men are absent this weekend but this team arguably has much greater attacking potential than the 2010 edition.
Can they escape the suffocating clutches of the Irish defence and cut loose though? Or do they have a kicker willing to go toe-punt to toe-punt with Sexton and O’ Gara?
Scotland Team to face Ireland: 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
Ref: C Pollock (NZ) Assistants: R Poite (Fra) & G Garner (Eng) TMO: G De Santis (Ita)
Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Saturday, k.o 5pm