KO 4.45 at Aviva Stadium
Saturday 1st February 2020
Live on ITV1
Last season’s Six Nations brought each country up to exactly 100 matches played since the tournament expanded in the year 2000. For fans of percentages that makes it especially easy to calculate Scotland’s success rate – and illustrate the scale of the challenge facing Gregor Townsend and his men.
Scotland’s win percentage against the other members of the Six Nations:
- England – 20%
- France – 15%
- Ireland – 20%
- Italy – 65%
- Wales – 20%
Recent seasons have seen a relative purple patch for the dark blues though. Between the end of February 2016 and the start of February 2019, Scotland won 9 out of 14 games in the championship, including 7 consecutive victories at Murrayfield. That’s probably what made last season’s 4 winless matches to finish the tournament (including 2 defeats at home) all the more galling. Momentum needs to be rebuilt in this year’s edition of the Six Nations.
Ireland Scouting Report
During the 2019 Six Nations, games involving Ireland averaged the fewest kicks – 44. By contrast, when it came to their encounter with Scotland during the RWC there were no less than 66 kicks – 39 from the Irish and 27 from the Scots. It was an area of the game that Joe Schmidt’s side won handily.
Whether it was Connor Murray’s exits consistently pushing play up to and beyond halfway or tactical kicks putting huge pressure on Scottish catchers, the selection of which option to go for and the subsequent execution were pretty much flawless every time.
With no humidity to deal with Ireland may be content to revert back to keeping ball in hand more frequently in this game. Scotland still need to find a way to at least match (and ideally better) their hosts in the kicking contest though if they want to play from the sort of field position that might yield tries for the dark blues’ attack.
Overpowering Up Front
Brutality is a word that has become familiar to Glasgow Warriors’ fans in recent seasons. It’s Dave Rennie’s go-to for describing how his forwards win (or lose) the battle up front. It’s a pretty ugly word but it certainly encapsulates much of the contest that goes on on a rugby pitch these days.
During the RWC match in Yokohama the brutality was definitely coming from the Irish pack – on both sides of the ball. In attack their forwards combined for 74 carries making 125 metres. In defence they restricted Scotland to just 53 metres from 65 carries. There was the small matter of Irish forwards scoring 3 of their side’s 4 tries as well!
The Scottish selection and tactics will need to be focused on closing the gap between the two sides’ packs. If the big lads up front can’t get the job done it’s probably not going to matter how good Scotland’s backline can be or who plays at 10.
- The defenders beaten (8) and clean breaks (3) figures for Scotland in their RWC match against Ireland were the lowest of the Townsend era.
- Last season’s Round 1 defeat to England is the only time Ireland have lost at the Aviva in the Six Nations since 2013.
- Ireland threw the fewest offloads (15) in the 2019 championship. That was half as many as the next lowest tally and just a quarter of the number chucked by France.
This will be the 11th time the two sides have met in Dublin for a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
L L L L L W L L L L
Most recent meeting in Dublin:
Ireland 28 – 8 Scotland
256 tackles attempted by Scotland – the most in any game during the Townsend era. There was a real feel of the Scots being worked over by their opponents, like a boxer pounding the body before eventually going for the knockout blow. 62% possession for the home side meant an awful lot of defensive duties for the dark blues.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
M. Raynal hasn’t been the most regular of refs for Scotland matches over the years. He’s been pretty kind in the penalty count – although he also seems to have been involved in some of the worst Scottish performances of the 2010s!
This same onfield trio will take charge of the Calcutta Cup match next weekend as well (with M. Raynal and M. Gauzere swapping roles). All the more reason to leave a favourable impression in this match…
Scotland’s previous games with M. Raynal in charge:
- 2012 – lost to Tonga (H)
Penalties: 37 (For 25 – 12 Against)
Cards: Tonga 3 YCs
- 2017 – lost to England (A)
Penalties: 18 (For 5 – 13 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Fraser Brown)
- 2018 – beat Argentina (A)
Penalties: 18 (For 10 – 8 Against)
- 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
Cards: Wales 1 YC
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.