KO 2.15 at BT Murrayfield
Saturday 9th February 2019
Live on BBC1
Past history would suggest a home win on Saturday is unlikely. Scotland have never won 2 in a row to start the Six Nations. You’d need to go back to the 1996 Five Nations for last time they opened with 2 victories (winning their first 3 to set up a Grand Slam decider against England in the final round…)
Equally significantly, Ireland have never lost 2 in a row to start the Six Nations. You’d need to go back to the 1998 Five Nations for the last time they opened with 2 defeats (they were whitewashed in that season’s tournament…)
Scotland’s combined results in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations:
- 2 wins – never
- Win + draw – never
- Win + loss – 6 times
- Draw + loss – 1 time
- 2 losses – 12 times
Some superb recent home form should provide plenty of encouragement for Gregor Townsend’s men though. Last weekend’s victory over Italy was Scotland’s seventh in a row at Murrayfield in the Six Nations. That’s their longest streak in the championship since their best ever run of 8 consecutive home wins in the Five Nations across the 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975 tournaments.
Ireland Scouting Report
Overpowered by the English
It’s unusual for the Irish pack to come up against someone bigger and nastier than them but that’s what happened in Round 1. Despite being used to dominating collisions and making the most of their physicality to stifle the opposition, Joe Schmidt’s side found themselves being knocked backwards by their English counterparts.
Across the starting pack Ireland made 61 carries for just 34 metres. Compare and contrast to their performance against New Zealand in November where numbers 1-8 made 84 carries for 148 metres, setting the platform for an historic win. Scotland don’t have the size at their disposal to match the intensity of England’s performance but they have to do everything they can to reduce the effectiveness of the Irish forwards in attack.
Even in difficult circumstances and eventual defeat to England the Irish maintained their iron discipline. Conceding just 4 penalties would normally have been an excellent way to prevent their opponents gaining territory and scoring positions but it wasn’t enough on this occasion.
Scotland themselves got little change out of Italy in terms of penalties (just 4 including the one that ended the game). Despite that they were able to pin the Azzurri back with an intelligent kicking game and good pressure. Similar tactics but executed even more perfectly may well be required on Saturday to get any kind of foothold in the Irish half.
The foundation of Ireland’s gameplan is keeping hold of the ball. No-one in last season’s Six Nations could really come close to the men in green when it came to hammering out phase after phase of error-free rugby. The Irish only lost possession once for every 43 rucks they set up. France (1 in 34) and Scotland (1 in 32) were a distance behind in this stat but still ahead of England, Wales and Italy who coughed up ball twice as often as Ireland.
Scotland need to be aware that if they give possession away at the weekend it’s likely to need a massive effort to get it back. There are ways and means to try and reduce the impact of this: forcing Ireland to play in their own half; nailing kick receptions; keeping the penalty count as low as possible. Ultimately though the dark blues need to be attacking the breakdown relentlessly to slow or steal ball if they’re going to survive the onslaught.
- Averaged (by some distance) the largest share of possession in last season’s Six Nations – 62%. Next highest was England with 53% and everyone else was below 50%.
- Kicked proportionately less than any other team. They made 32% more carries per kick than the average for the remaining sides.
- Only England (with 65%) had a lower success rate with kicks at goal than Ireland’s 76% in last year’s tournament.
This will be the 10th time the two sides have met in Edinburgh for a 6 Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
W L L L L L W L W
Most recent meeting at Murrayfield:
Scotland 27 – 22 Ireland
274 tackles attempted by Scotland – over 100 more than Ireland. Despite only missing 9 tackles (compared to 32 missed by Scotland) the Irish found themselves on the wrong end of 3 tries and couldn’t match the dark blues efficiency in converting their chances. Gregor Townsend’s men will need to be similarly clinical in this season’s match if they are to come away with another win.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
M. Poite and M. Ruiz were both on duty as Assistant Referees for Ireland’s clash with England last Saturday. It would be interesting to know if they’re bringing any preconceptions into this match having seen the Irish at close quarters so recently.
The French official hasn’t always been the best news in terms of the penalty count for Scotland. This has improved a touch in recent fixtures and it’s also over 5 years since he last sin binned a Scotsman (unsurprisingly it was big Jim Hamilton picking up the yellow card on that occasion!)
Scotland’s last 5 games with M. Poite in charge:
- 2014 – lost to New Zealand (H)
Penalties: 17 (For 7 – 10 Against)
- 2015 – lost to England (A)
Penalties: 18 (For 8 – 10 Against)
- 2015 – beat Italy (H)
Penalties: 26 (For 14 – 12 Against)
Cards: Italy 2 YCs
- 2017 – beat Ireland (H)
Penalties: 16 (For 7 – 9 Against)
- 2018 – lost to South Africa (H)
Penalties: 17 (For 9 – 8 Against)
Cards: South Africa 1 YC
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.