Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


5 Key Points For Beating Ireland

Kelly Brown and Rob Harley congratulate Tim Visser - photo © Alastair Ross

Scotland’s win against Italy will live long in the memory. Arguably one of side’s greatest victories of the professional era it added some spark to Scotland’s 6 Nations campaign with some in the squad even suggesting the team might be capable of winning the tournament outright. Ireland arrive at Murrayfield on the back of a scrappy defeat to England with the same win to loss ratio and will be just as eager to revive their championship chances.

The two week break might have sapped some momentum but it’s also given Scottish bodies a chance to recover. It’s also given some fringe players an opportunity to push for a place in the match day squad with Jon Welsh winning a place on the bench thanks to form and Euan Murray’s theological zeal.

So what do Scotland need to do to stop Irish eyes from smiling?

1. Target (the Irish) Jackson

Scotland’s back row, particularly Rob Harley, did a fantastic job of targeting Orquera in the game against Italy. Starved of time, the scourge of French rugby was unable to run the game and was unceremoniously substituted after that interception from Stuart Hogg. Kidney has selected 21 year old Paddy Jackson of Ulster at 10 ahead of Ronan O’Gara.

Jackson has talent but is unproven at this level and although Ulster are riding high in the league he’s hardly set the world on fire and will miss Pienaar to help him out. International rugby is a couple of steps up from Rabo Pro 12 but if he’s allowed to get time on the ball he’ll grow in confidence as the match progresses. Scotland can’t allow that to happen. Get him rattled and (our) Jackson, Scott and Hogg can feed off any errant passes and kicks.

2. Possession means nothing

Scotland lost the battle for possession against Italy but still won big. Look at England against Ireland and the stats are almost identical. Winning the battle for possession does not mean you win the war. Scotland need to soak up pressure in defence, go for territory through the boots of Hogg and Laidlaw and pounce on the slightest of Irish errors. But the territory kicking has to be good.

3. Play the conditions

The forecast for Sunday is light snow. Ireland tried too hard to play their game against England, regardless of the weather, and it cost them. England played the game the weather dictated, and despite being ugly, it got the result. Wet slippery conditions might suit Scotland’s current strategy of being aggressive in the ruck, booting for territory and feeding off scraps.

4. Don’t believe the hype

Scotland have never handled the “favourites” tag well and there is a danger that victory against Italy and the number of Irish injuries might have some fans and players expecting an easy time of it. Ireland have much more depth than Scotland and Sunday’s line up is dominated by players from an Ulster side riding high at the top of the Rabo Pro 12. Friday night’s match between the Warriors and Ulster is sure to provide an interesting amuse bouche prior to the weekend’s main event.

There’s no room for any complacency. Much like Richie McCaw at the World Cup, a one-legged Brian O’Driscoll is still better than most international centres playing on two. Ireland might be without a number of first choice players but their replacements will be keen to show that they’re not just keeping the shirt warm for its incumbent.

5. Don’t choke

Our regular number 5. The breakdown/tackle contest/tackle battle. Scotland need to avoid getting isolated when carrying ball. That weird ‘choke’ tackle the Irish are so fond of (where they prevent the ball carrier from going to deck) only works if they can target an individual ball carrier. God knows what’ll happen when Denton gets on.

This tactic creates as many penalties against as it does turnovers for them so the referee will be vital. Scotland will need to adapt to how the contact area is refereed. Kelly Brown was more vocal with the referee against Italy than he has been in the past and it seemed to work. Kidding on they have an edge in the scrum even without Euan Murray might help.

Aggression will be key. Scotland seemed to have regained some fire in their bellies that had been missing in the last few years. Whatever they did in the run up to the match to get that fired up needs to be repeated come Sunday afternoon.

Additional reporting: Scottish Rugby Blog Staff

Scotland team to play Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Murrayfield on Sunday 24 February, kick-off 2pm: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Robert Harley, Kelly Brown (Captain), Johnnie Beattie
Replacements: Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Jon Welsh, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Max Evans

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Craig Gilroy, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Tom Court, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (Captain)

Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Declan Fitzpatrick, Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Luke Fitzgerald

12 Responses

  1. “Don’t believe the hype”. Exactly – that is a strong Irish squad. We need to be at our best in all aspects.

    1. Yes – That’s the reason he’s ruled himself out for selection. I’m not questioning his beliefs just reporting them.

      There’s probably an interesting theological debate to be had if we can find a couple of Ministers that are into rugby

    2. I just don’t think it’s something you can gloss over. “Made himself unavailable” is a little clumsy as I’m sure he would say he has no choice. “Not being available” doesn’t tell the whole story.

    3. Gloss over?? Come on, yes, clarity is always preferred, you chose those words and they are pejorative.

    4. ChillyWilly – you need to chill the hell out instead of looking for offense where there is none. It’s sad that before such an anticipated match most of the comments on this blog are on something so pedantic.

      Thanks for the post Cameron – COME ON SCOTLAND!

    5. Pedantic, lol :-) FF, dude it’s cool. #monthescots
      Euan Murray, unavailable on religious grounds. Simples.

  2. I must say I’ve liked what I’ve heard from Scott Johnson in the lead-up to this game: he seems intent on keeping his players’ feet on the ground and focus on winning the breakdown. His media caricature doesn’t bear much resemblance to the coach we’ve seen so far. If he can deliver a couple more wins in this championship he’ll have earned a permanent contract in my opinion.

    I’m glad to see a settled side emerging from this tournament as well, although I’d prefer to see MacArthur and Dunbar on the bench in place of Hall and Evans.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion