Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Ireland vs Scotland: the teams

Scotland vs Ireland
Graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog

Part II of Kevin’s full head-to-head preview will follow later, but for now here are the teams hot off the presses.

Both sides are strong, but for Ireland the selection has perhaps been tempered by the injury concern over Keith Earls and Rob Kearney who are apparently fit to play but short of match fitness.

Weather is set to be drizzly but not expected to be torrential, so it will be interesting to see if the conditions play a part.

Ireland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Chris Farrell.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Dell, Stuart McInally (capt), Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings, Blade Thomson, Ali Price, Chris Harris, Darcy Graham.

70 Responses

  1. Townsend gone for experience over form in choosing Seymour and Wilson especially. Feel sorry for Graham who’s been our standout player recently. Hopefully it’s just a conservative approach for first game and the likes of Graham, G Horne, Cummings, Thomson and Ritchie can prove themselves to be starters for upcoming key matches.

    Come on Scotland!!

  2. Accepting that everyone has their own opinions and favourite players the team selected to play Ireland is very much as expected. The question I have is regarding the bench. We select only two stand offs in the squad but Gregor Townsend obviously does not have confidence to select our back up ten as a replacement. If Russell gets injured is Harris the replacement stand off for the rest of the tournament?

    1. Laidlaw is backup 10 in this game – he has done a decent job there before although would hope Russell doesn’t get injured early on!

      It’s nothing to do with not thinking Hastings is any good, there are 3 back spots on the bench and this is a perfectly sensible decision.

      1. I disagree. Price, Horne, Graham covers all positions. Harris in place of Horne just double covers centre and back 3 and an early injury to Russell would totally change how we can approach the game. This is a huge gamble and I’m struggling to see the upside.

      2. Laidlaw has performed better at 10 than Horne when he has had to step up I would say!

        I don’t necessarily agree with the selection – I would have Hastings on the bench over Harris – but it is something that has been done before and worked out well so it is not that crazy.

        Also against Ireland, Laidlaw tactical play is arguably a bigger advantage than the flair of the other backup 10s.

      3. Laidlaw has very limited recent experience at 10, Horne has for Scotland and Glasgow. Laidlaw will be targeted in defence, Horne is a very effective defender. Laidlaw will be forced to move, so we will lsoe the impact of replacing our SH late on, which would not be necessary if we had a FH on the bench.

        Yes, Horne’s last game at 10 for Scotland wasn’t great and Laidlaw’s was decent. But we canned the idea of Laidlaw at 10 years ago for good reason.

      4. I am guessing that since Sam and Duncan are two of the more injury prone players in the squad, GT wanted an out and out centre as cover and someone who can make a bit more of an impact in both attack and defence which is why Harris got the nod over Horne. It is a bit of a risk as if Finn gets injured (which, touch wood, doesn’t happen too often) we are up the proverbial creek.

        Other than that I really like the squad. Not a lot of ball carriers in the starting pack but we have players that can wear them down and contain the Irish threat and then bring on a bit of ballast in the last 20 with Thomson, Berghan, Commings and Brown. I think our bench will be more effective that theirs, let’s just hope it is still a close affair at 60 minutes

      5. Sensible?

        Laidlaw wasn’t a test 10 when he was playing 10 every week – years ago, he’s not going to have got any better.

        Hastings should have been on the bench.

  3. I think its a conditions / combatting opposition / experienced team selection.

    Gilchrist is a tighter lock than Cummings.
    Seymour has bags of experience in that back 3 and is probably better suited to deal with the ariel battle than Graham. Wilson, like Barclay gives a good lineout option if they throw to the back and will hopefully be a sufficient menace to stop Ryan, Stander and Henderson getting over the gain line.

    In terms of overall Caps I cant think of a more experienced Scotland XV in at least the last 5 years. Only really Johnson could be classed as relateively inexperienced

    1. Ireland have tended to throw a lot of lineout ball to O’Mahony against us so I think Barclay and Wilson will be trying to disrupt that. Actually our best way of winning this game is for Best to have a nightmare with us regularly disrupting their lineout and getting the ball back off them.

  4. Not an unsurprising selection, but wanted to see Graham start. Seymour not on form and Darcy is on fire, has aggressive defense and lifts the team. Real concern with both second rows and no.8 is they don’t get over the gain line so we won’t get quick ball. 2nd row should be Gray or Gilco with Cummings or Toolis.

  5. Low twenties here, forecast to be muggy but the rain is earlier than predicted. A sensible, tight team. Yeah we would all like Darcy to start, perhaps Thomson, but against this grim attritional team, experience counts. Maitland and Seymour are quality under the high ball and Schmidt would have had his eye on young Graham. Our bench looks very good. My only fear is minus Skinner and Thomson, we might get bossed in the scrum, but then again, might have the edge in loose ball. C’mon the boys!

    1. Keep the reports coming , I am hoping we are the fitter side in the heat and that will come through in fourth quarter. Toonie has talked fitness and speed since he got the post, the day has arrived and yes, I am just going to give him a break on this one, we will be fitter.

  6. Not an overly surprising 23. Experience wins the day with many sensible picks.
    I really hope the Irish don’t look at that 23 and target Russell with a cynical hit from the likes of POM early on knowing we don’t have a natural replacement on the bench.

  7. I think in Cummings, Thomson, Price and Graham we have some good impact to come off the bench.

    Think this will be close and world cups can do funny things to irish sides coping with expectation. Let’s hope we settle quickly and take the initiative. If we have to chase the game from early on we are done for.

      1. We have not tried to fit Harris in at 10 just yet, yet highly conceivable we could try that experiment before the tournament is over. That must be one of those tricks we hope Toonie is keeping up his sleeve, he is a cunning devil our Toonie.

      2. I reckon Toony trickery is more likely to work on tactics, rather than personnel. Fannying around with players positionally is not the stuff of World Cup success. I’d be fairly surprised if Harris would really be the slot in at 10 following a Russell injury. It is a flat out risk not having a regular 10 in the bench, but I would imagine it would be Laidlaw and then Hogg as cover there. Fair enough neither have played there regularly for a long time, but they are both very experienced, with proven understanding and vision as playmaker and/or first receiver.

  8. Is Jonny Gray fully Test match fit? And Duncan Taylor too? I guess the coaching team and players themselves have decided they are.
    It’s a good 23 even allowing for differences of supporter opinion about two or three selections.
    Really excited about this match. Just hoping for an early demonstration that we can at least match them up front and that we eliminate the basic mistakes we tend to make early in Tests that often lead to concession of an early lead. Deliver in both those areas and it will truly be ‘game on’.
    Mon, Scotland!

  9. Probably the most conservative selection of Townsend’s international career!

    A nod to the occasion that he’s gone with experience, but maybe also to the expected conditions. If it is wet, I’d expect lots of Irish bombs, and I reckon Seymour is our best player under the high ball. I would have been sorely tempted to pick Cummings, but again, if the Irish look to set-up mauls, I think Gilchrist does some of his best work defending them.

    I guess playing the No1 ranked side in the World Cup is no time for experimentation.

    The only green partnership is Johnson and Taylor, and I guess you have to trust them working well together as they are both pretty handy.

    It looks a pretty well-balanced side between x-factor stardust, and players happy to get stuck into the ugly and necessary stuff. One that can score tries, and yet hopefully defend a bit. Fingers crossed for a decent start…

  10. Sensible and experienced selection. Graham v Seymour must have been close but against such an intense percentage team Seymour’s probably the right call and Graham’s on the bench.
    Seymour has been a great player for us in attack too over the seasons. He’s a Lion.

    Come on Scotland!

    1. I agree with you on that. It is likely to be a game of slugging it out and absorbing impact. If Seymour only play this one game in the groups and plays well, I would say his selection is justified. Besides he seems to always play well against Ireland. I think he could have qualified for them as well as us, maybe he always wants to prove a point.

  11. So the back up 10 isn’t picked & neither is the back up back up who was selected over Jones & Hutchinson for that exact reason? A average centre who can cover wing if no one is looking is the 10 cover? Toonie selection all right!

    1. Not sure that Harris is just an average centre. I have been impressed by his recent performances – holding his line and drawing two players for DG’s try against Georgie, crash ball try against France, defence against England etc.

      1. Go back in time 10-15 years, and we’d have killed for a centre of Harris’ ability. How times have changed. I also think he’s finding his feet at this level as well. Though I think I might have had Horne on the bench for this one..

  12. Really pleased Townsend has gone for experience for the first 60 minutes and then real impact for the last 20.
    I expect that Scotland will kick more than normal during the first half to test Stockdale’s defensive positioning and Lamour under the high ball. It would be great to pin Ireland down in their half, and preferably their 22, for the first half hour as they don’t naturally tend to break from deep.
    Finn has increasingly kicked – thinking England and Georgia matches especially – and our mid-field appears to be the strongest defensive unit we have put out in many years.

  13. If experience can keep us in the game then I think our bench could have a significant impact. There is absolutely zero room for any brain farts, stupid mistakes, defensive lapses or getting on the wrong side of the referee. Let’s hope the Irish are looking ahead to the quarter final and forget to pay us due respect, but to be fair to them over the years they have read us like a book and (to mix the metaphors) played us like a cheap fiddle. I want to see a massive physical performance smashing the Irish back in the tackle and disrupting their ruck and maul possession. I don’t care about the fancy stuff, if we are in their 22 long enough and have the ball we will score but if we are chasing the game from our own half it will be same old same old. Come on boys!

    1. Although I understand the sentiment having no mistakes etc is not only impossible but not needed. Look back at New Zealand v South Africa this morning and count the errors. The two best teams in the world had many basic errors.

      We can’t continue to compound error by error. Nor would it be an ideal to lose an early try. But we can afford mistakes and an 80minute performance is rarely seen by anybody. Another pipedream.

      We have some genuinely great players now. Hogg likes scoring against Ireland. Russell is really close to his peak and best in the world. Watson is unplayable by most. Seymour is on a 4 game scoring run in world cups games.

      It’ll be tough and a terrific contest but we don’t need perfection we just need to be taking 60% of our scoring chances, defend strongly and believe we can do it.

      1. I think there is a big difference between skill errors/ “bad luck” when doing the right thing…those will always happen when you are playing at the edge.

        And mistakes…those that happen due to poor decisions, inattention, lack of a plan or overambition…these are avoidable.

        Ireland are not very special, talent wise, but in they have got mistakes to a minimal level, and it wins them games…versus, say, Fiji, who yesterday made many such mistakes and lost a winnable game.

        I do get the feeling that we have edged towards the Fiji end of that scale….that we would do well to back our basic skills a bit more, with solid execution, and keep the tricks for the killer moves.

  14. Watching ITV and glad to see England, Ireland and Wales represented on the panel ….. but no Scotland! This is just typical

    1. Yeah, they showed the Scotland lineup for Scotland and the full extent of the analysis was “630 caps”.

    2. ITV assume that Scotland has few rugby fans so a Scots representative on the panel would not increase audience numbers. Perhaps ITV need reminding that just a few weeks ago Scotlands football and rugby national teams played on the same night:Murryfield was almost full while Hamden was half empty.

  15. Its the world number 7 team against the world number 1 on neutral ground and I actually quite fancy our chances, with all our first choices available, of doing something positive and making a statement. Hope we’ve captured the best of the second half against England, start well and can stretch it in to an 80 minute performance.

  16. With the exception perhaps of the centres, the starting 15(13) probably represent the first-choice core starters of Toony’s tenure. After all the tombola tampering of the last couple of years, this game, with this starting 15, above all will be a true reflection of where the team is at, and of Toony’s time at the helm. Exciting stuff. The rugby world is watching and we are all going to find out what this team are really made of. Prepare for elation or despair!

    1. Yup, and also the centres are probably his ideal centre pairing (maybe he would have preferred Jones/Taylor if Jones had showed form) even if he hasn’t had a chance to field them. It feels like the last few years have been a journey to arrive at pretty much this team (even if we’d all rather a ball carrying 8 we know why Ryan’s in).

      1. Yup….like we were on a journey to our wildest dreams… but unfortunately got lost and stuck in the Lidl car park…with Ryan in the front seat.

  17. The general media and punditry opinion seems to be that Ireland have too much for Scotland and will not have too much trouble in winning this one. A Scotland upset win is definitely minority opinion. All I can see stretching back for the past few years is a stream of disappointments and under performances, especially where the Irish are concerned . A victory in this fixture would be so sweet.

  18. The thought occurs that the lack of clear cover for 10 is a result of the absolute necessity of getting Graham in the 23. He is in sublime form and has to be given a chance in this game. If he takes one bench spot, only covering 11/14, as Seymour/Maitland then cover 15, then the other bench spot needs to go to someone who covers multiple midfield positions, specifically 10 and 13:

    Hastings: directly covers 10 (needed) and 15 (not needed). Theoretically would enable Russell to go to 12 and cover 10, but Taylor already covers 12 from the starting 15. No cover for 13.

    Horne: directly covers 10 and 12, but no experience at 13 that I’m aware of, so that gap remains.

    Kinghorn: covers 10/11/14/15 with only the first one being required. Still no cover for 13.

    Harris: definitely covers 11/13/14 and, according to TOL, 10 as well.

    Therefore, if Graham has to be in the 23, then Harris seems to be the only choice for the 22 shirt. Theoretically, that leaves a gap at 10, but Laidlaw has played there at test level (successfully in early 2018), and Hoggy for the Lions (yeah, I know).

    So it does make sense, particularly when we take into account Toonie’s penchant for versatility on the bench.

  19. Where is this nonsense Harris is cover for 10 coming from? He’s a 6ft 4 defensive centre with hands of stone and I’ve never seen him kick the ball.

  20. Harris is your 10.

    Japan looked rubbish. Losing to either them or Samoa would be a proper disaster and we’re very likely to lose to NZ/SA in any q-final. The main thing in this Ireland match is not the result – the result of the other 4 matches we play is set-in-stone, but not losing guys like Watson and Russell.

    1. A bit pessimistic saying they are set in stone. We have beaten SA before and the last time we played NZ (who were stronger then than now imho) we were a bawhair away from winning.

      Conversly very optimistic saying that Japan will be a walkover for us. In front of their home crowd playing for a quarter final place, they will be a different team from today.

  21. If Finn gets taken out then it’s game and tournament over anyway so why worry about it. Hastings can do a job but we aint beating SA or NZ without Russell.

  22. Yawn… much for the ‘adventurous’ GT….
    A predictable selection.
    1st though was just… Meh
    He picked his favs. Wilson at 8…ffs….im just not a fan of his.
    Far more excited about the bench really.

    An obvious hole at 10…so if Ireland ‘Mahoneys’ Russell that’ll be a a rap then.

  23. Bit of a negative mindset already detectable.
    Well, if you think it won’t happen then it probably won’t.
    Ireland will be walking around saying ‘let’s lay down a marker and keep the Scots in their place’.
    Be ready for it and lay down a marker of your own is the best attitude.
    The only way to have had Hastings in the squad that I can think of would have been to drop Seymour or Graham completely, have Harris covering centre and wing and Hastings on the bench.
    Otherwise you’d have been looking at Thomson covering 2nd row or Brown covering back row.

    Let’s be honest and admit that had Townsend done any of those things they would not have been uncontroversial.
    I suppose the question is over Horne who is a decent 12 and can hang on at 10 and whether he would be better than Harris.
    Harris is good. Lots of people dont seem to like him, but his strike rate for Scotland is good. He’s the kind of player Townsend has always liked – bit of pace, bit of a unit.
    So the selection might be a bit risky but it’s difficult to see a permutation that would be completely acceptable to us all.

      1. 3 starts 2 tries Stu2.

        Just get get stuck into the Irish who’re an arrogant bunch of twts who think they’re going to put us in our place.

    1. Jon B a few boards ago you were saying how you did not feel confident about this game. What has changed ?

      One of Harris tries was a walk in , I could have scored it and you would need a stretcher to carry me onto the pitch these days. He was in the wrong place and caught the ball.

      Huw Jones 21 starts 10 tries , will be watching over breakfast at home , hopefully with much more glamours company than Townsend and Harris.

  24. Decent team IMO, Seymour is possibly lucky to be in there instead of Graham but the thought of him coming off the bench is an exciting one! The cynic in me makes me think, having no real back up flyhalf is a recipe for Finn being a target for some of Ireland’s more “interesting” tactics…

    P.s. Matsushima was my captain in the fantasy league, result!

  25. If anything happens to Finn surely Hogg will go to 10. Laidlaw can play a predictable kicking game, surely that is not how to beat Ireland. Furthermore having Laidlaw & Price at 1/2 back is an invitation for the Irish big lads to charge at. GT said the fastest rugby in the world. peculiar to take Hastings & P.Horne as back up 10s then not choose them. Re the forwards Thomson will come on & hopefully make a difference

    1. Wonder if there is a chance Sam Johnson goes to 10 if Russell goes down?…Taylor to 12 ..Harris to 13
      Hogg to 10 probably a better option than Laidlaw…in a backup situation…with Maitland to FB Graham to wing.

    2. I wonder how Stuart Hogg feels about being the next target at number 10. That will just not happen.

  26. Ireland have taken a risk with their wingers, it’s a pity Toonie felt unable to do so too – but Seymour is there to field the Irish kicks and Murray is one of the best box kickers in the world.

  27. If we can cope with the Irish pack we can take them. Sexton is 34 and hasn’t played close to his best really since the lions. Murray’s form has dropped off a cliff the last year. Best is far from it, POM contributes most in his dirty play these days. They are aging and passed their best. The spine is weak. If I were Toony I’d be selecting 12 of the 15 based on 1 single thing and that is how they are talking in camp. Pick the confidence guys, the ones who believe they can win and let them go out and do it.

  28. Lots been said about the team already. Feels a bit like the team that has failed to beat Ireland in the last few seasons, come close but failed in the end.

    But this time it’ll be different!

    1. Although it is the core team, I’m not sure if they have all been fit and played at the same time. Toony suggested as much. There’s a very compelling case for fielding your most experienced players and settled combos in the RWC. With the exception fo the centres, the personnel within the units have played together many times, even if the collective of the units have not. I can’t remember the core of the 2/3 year squad ever being fielded together. It’s a mature and experienced squad and they are all good players, many excellent. Also some great zing on the bench, which includes the only heavily contentious omissions from the starting 15 . It’s the most serious looking team we’ve had in the professional era and most, if not all, of the players have experience of knock out rugby, high pressure games and meaningful successes.
      We may well lose, as will be expected by all neutrals with good reason, but I doubt whether that would be remedied by tinkering with the team sheet.
      The World Cup is the end point of long term planning and an over-arching strategy. Given the last few years, and the players that we have, this line up makes sense to me and I’m actually amazed that we are able to put that team out.
      We don’t have the massive power (e.g. England) team, which has been shown to expose Ireland. So, we’ll just have to see if the culmination of the Cotter/Toony progression and style can work at this level. I’m excited to see what we can do.

  29. Japan vs Russia, entertaining if not sublime rugby. Russia going to be the whipping boys of the group and made Japan look better than they probably are, but GT cannot afford to take risks with the selection or the tactics for the game against the hosts.

    1. I thought Japan looked ponderous and lacked their frantic style, but it is not likely to be the side they are saving for us. We will beat their test side, on that showing , they are barely ready, we are fit and fast. I predict Darcy will be the man for that game.

  30. So Blair Kinghorn has ‘picked up’ a reoccurring injury according to Townsend. What was that -hamstring?

    1. Yeah kinda feels like that …..’very experienced’… yup… experienced in continually losing to Ireland. Would have preferred to see some players with more positive experience.
      Is what it is tho… hopefully we turn up and play the best game we have under GT. It’ll take that level to win.
      We really need to show we can focus for an entire 80mins… and with longer periods of intensity. Cheap brain fart tries will cost us the game…Ireland are efficient with what they get.

      Kinghorn showing recurring concussion symptoms still?..thats not good.

  31. Japan v Russia match….. 2 ordinary looking teams.
    Japan looked a shadow of the team we played in the last RWC…simply ordinary.
    Russia?…if we dont beat them by a cricket score…poor performance.

    NZ V SA…..NZ are the better team. They are excellent in defense …tactical …read the game superbly and have flair in attack. The team to beat thus far. Teams need to play smart to beat them… not one singular way.
    SA …looked like a 1 trick pony against NZ….Bish,Bosh Bash and wait for a mistake…except doing that against a team like NZ isn’t clever..they dont make many mistakes. Powerful players but one dimensional. As much as we often look like we have no plan B …neither do SA. Beatable. Front up ,defend excellent and pick the right moment to attack = win.

  32. Getting nervous for tomorrow. Best chance for a win we’ll have yet still a very tall order. If their lineout is off that’ll help enormously.

    Let’s hope we can avoid the usual 10 points head start to them

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