KO 8.45am (4.45pm local time)
Sunday 22nd September 2019
International Stadium, Yokohama City
Live on ITV1
1,435 days since Scotland last played a World Cup match. 1,435 days since bewildered Scotland fans ran the gamut of emotions in a cruel loss to Australia. Now it’s time to do it all again…
This game will have massive implications for Scotland. Victory means a shot at topping an RWC pool for the first time since 1991. Lose and there is absolutely no margin for error in the remaining three matches if a quarter-final place is to be achieved.
History is not in Scotland’s favour when it comes to this type of fixture. Across 18 games against other Tier 1 teams in World Cups the dark blues have managed just two previous wins.
Scotland’s record against Tier 1 nations in RWC matches:
- New Zealand – P5 L5
- France – P3 D1 L2
- Argentina – P2 L2
- Australia – P2 L2
- England – P2 L2
- South Africa – P2 L2
- Ireland – P1 W1
- Italy – P1 W1
The victory against Ireland came 28 years ago in the 1991 tournament when Gary Armstrong and Graham Shiel were the try scorers. Italy were only just vanquished in 2007 by way of Chris Paterson’s boot.
A win in Sunday’s Tier 1 matchup would set a really significant marker as to how far Scotland have progressed over the past four or five years.
Ireland Scouting Report
Do points really mean prizes?
It’s been over 18 months since Ireland scored 30 or more points against a top 10 side. To which the counter is quite simply – they don’t need to. A couple of outliers against England aside (more on them later…) the Irish have conceded an average of just 14 points per game. They have the ability to stifle sides into submission. Even teams with huge attacking prowess have foundered on the rocks of Ireland’s game plan (including being the first country for 4 years to hold New Zealand tryless).
It’s not simply about defence – although it almost goes without saying that the linespeed is high and the tackling is intense and accurate – it’s about control of possession and territory. It’s about dictating where and how the game is played. When Ireland are in charge of these areas then anything over 20 points will be enough to win most games.
Control the pressure
Any match against Ireland has a different style to it for an opposing team. It’s one which they need to either adapt to – or better yet find a way to disrupt and impose their own tactics. That’s very much easier said than done though! Some key points from the most recent Six Nations were:
- Ireland set up considerably more rucks than any other team in the tournament. They averaged 125 per game compared to 97 per game for the other sides. They will happily make short, or even no-yardage carries as long as they can retain possession and grind away at a defence. Then it’s all about waiting to find a gap or just simply breaking through by sheer attritional force.
- Ireland had 20 more lineouts than anyone else. The pressure they put teams under in their own half and 22 forces them to try and find the safest outlet they can. The relief is short-lived though as all it does is hand possession back to the Irish for another extended series of phases.
- Ireland games featured the fewest kicks on average – 44 compared to 56 for the other matches. Again this comes back to Joe Schmidt wanting his side to have as much controlled possession as possible. Even when they do kick it will be to contest in order to try and win the ball back directly.
As mentioned earlier England have been the side that has given Ireland most difficulties on their run-in to this RWC. Are they kryptonite for the Joe Schmidt gameplan? Are there any lessons there for Scotland? Well, there’s not going to be a Vunipola at 8 or a Tuilagi at 13…and unfortunately, Ireland won’t be as rusty as they were in August when they conceded over 50 points!
In that most recent match at Twickenham two playmakers opened up the field for Eddie Jones’ side – as did just under 30 kicks. Nearly 50% of them came from England’s scrum halves, which may be of interest to Greig Laidlaw.
Ireland dominated possession and territory in all of their Six Nations matches. Against England they were the ones having to give second best, playing the majority of the game in their own half and without the ball.
Scotland need to find their own way to do something similar to the English, using the kicking game that they have increasingly been looking to exploit in their last half dozen matches. Containing Ireland at halfway isn’t enough though. Scotland need to force them to start possessions from in and around their own 22. That should then lead to the sort of field position the dark blues need to create their own scores from.
- Connor Murray was the only player to make more than 400 passes during the Six Nations. Ireland’s scrum halves averaged 108 passes per 80 minutes (in comparison Scotland’s 9s averaged 95).
- Jacob Stockdale had more handling errors (10) than any other player in the Championship. It would be a high-risk strategy to try and expose this though as his scoring record remains extraordinary – including tries in both his previous outings against Scotland.
- No-one in the Six Nations got over the gainline more often than James Ryan (32 times). That was on more than 50% of his carries. Stopping him is crucial to preventing Ireland getting front foot ball.
Scotland have only defeated Ireland once since Joe Schmidt took over as their head coach in 2013 (7 matches). The head to head from the countries’ last 10 meetings looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
W L W L L L L W L L
Most recent meeting:
Scotland 13 – 22 Ireland
67% possession in the second half for Ireland (combined with 72% territory). Scotland were frequently their own worst enemies after half-time with turnovers and penalties conceded on early phases when they had the ball. This lead to the double whammy of killing Scottish attacking momentum stone dead while allowing Ireland to dictate for long, long passages of play.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Since 2011 Scotland have ‘lost’ the penalty count in 9 out of 11 games where Mr Barnes has been the referee. The average number of penalties conceded is 12 – although that’s dropped to 9 in the three most recent matches.
Ireland usually excel in keeping their crime count down. That means it’s likely the dark blues will need their best ever showing with Mr Barnes in charge in order to keep pace with the number 1 side in the world.
Scotland’s last 5 games with Mr Barnes as referee:
- 2015 – lost to France (A)
Pens: 26 (For 10 – 16 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (David Denton)
- 2017 – beat Australia (A)
Pens: 23 (For 8 – 15 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Ryan Wilson); Australia 1 YC
- 2018 – lost to Ireland (A)
Pens: 19 (For 9 – 10 Against)
- 2018 – lost to USA (A)
Pens: 19 (For 11 – 8 Against)
Cards: USA 1 YC
- 2019 – beat France (H)
Pens: 16 (For 7 – 9 Against)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Saturday after the team announcement (expected Friday).