Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Ireland v Scotland: Six Nations 2020, Match Preview pt I

REPRO FREE***PRESS RELEASE NO REPRODUCTION FEE*** EDITORIAL USE ONLY 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship Launch, Tobacco Dock, London, England 22/1/2020 Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Stuart Hogg Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

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

Kicking Masterclass

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.

Previous results

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:


Most recent meeting in Dublin:

Ireland 28 – 8 Scotland

Significant stat
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)
    Cards: none
  • 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.

76 Responses

  1. V interesting, if slightly sad stats. Would be very interested to compare with percentages before 200o/professional

  2. Scotland’s problem in a nutshell here; kicking and the breakdown. They’re also related as it’s much easier for teams like Ireland to hold possession and wait for a penalty or mistake when they are playing the bulk of the game in our half.

    Last season Scotland tried to kick a lot more and this was the strategy that Russell was arguing back against at Twickenham. Problem is we aren’t very good at it. Whilst the Twickenham fight back might show we should stick to our guns in our helter skelter style, the reality is we hit a glass ceiling playing that rugby and need to be able to vary our game to deal with different problems in the test arena.

    As for the weekend – Russell and Laidlaw probably better equipped to match Ireland’s kicking game and that simply did not happen in Japan. So tough to see how Price/Horne and Hastings will do so. Where does that leave us? Probably hoping forwards be more direct, get upper hand and we can deprive Irish of monopoly of possession, kicking sparingly but always contestable or behind Irish sweepers. It’s a tall order but wouldn’t be much easier with Finn in the team.

    1. We are not good at a kicking game….and our players are poor at catching the high ball. Ireland target us every time in that regard …because it results in success almost every time.
      If our coaches cant see that basic flaw and continue to feed it…they shouldn’t be our coaches.

      1. Exactly. Worse than the other more successful nations under the high ball and poor in the kick-chase.

  3. Pretty alarmed at the matches Mr Raynal has reffed before, 3 of easily our worst games in the last 10 years. I was at that Tonga game and just remember thinking if only we can get some flow into the game we will score points but when you see there were 37 penalties it’s not difficult to see why that was impossible.

    I’ve said numerous times before, there just isn’t any reason we can’t give Ireland (and Wales for that matter) a good game. The majority of our players play the same guys week in week out, compete and regularly beat them.

    I hope Russellgate (Rexit?, Finexit?) has galvanised the squad. To me there’s obviously some beef between him and Toonie that’s been simmering away, it’s probably been badly handled but I totally agree with Toonie in that there has to be standards that everyone adheres to for the benefit of the team. You can’t let people off just because they are who they are, Fins one of the senior players in the squad and should understand that. It’s just a shame that the kids won’t get to see everyone’s favourite player. It does however give the Hastings kid a golden opportunity, he’s been playing well, let’s hope he takes the opportunity.

    1. It sounds like argument that precipitated it all wasn’t between Finn and Toonie at all, but Finn and ‘senior’ players. If we are to be live Toonie’s account he became aware when Russell’s mum and dad arrived to pick him up (that itself is a pretty pathetic sentence to write).

      Russell is probably let my favourite player but I’m worried there’s been too much smoke blown up his behind since he moved to Racing. If he wants to go down as a legend he needs to apply himself to Scotland’s revival.

      1. Depends if you believe Townsend. Also don’t think that just because Russell had an argument with some senior players means that its an all vs 1 scenario. Price judging from Twitter seems to have no issue, is he not a “senior player” this senior player line seems fed by SRU/Townsend to me. More likely a divide in the camp.

        As I say, if Russell is not happy in the Scotland camp – and his behaviour is not that of a man that is – then there is likely more to it than Russell just being a [insert pejorative]. He has certainly never come across as such to me.

        Does anyone believe that Townsend/SRU are an innocent party? Townsend seems to me to be someone who lacks tact and diplomacy and who can turn against people. Thinking Strauss, (potentially) R Gray. Now Russell. Don’t see why Russell is obligated to just suck it up and do the mans bidding if he doesn’t want to/isn’t happy doing it. He might like playing for Scotland but he does have a £700k/year job in Paris, SRU are no longer his main employer thanks to their conduct with his father. In the circumstances I might think hanging around holding tackle bags a bit of an underutilisation of my time.

      2. Of course it does, as I acknowledged in my post. But nothing has come out that actually contradicts Toonie’s account. Lots of supporters seem ready to speculate about what happened based on nothing more than liking Russell and disliking the SRU.

        Every professional sporting environment has tension and strained relationships, it comes with the territory. It can even be positive, you don’t want a squad of followers. But ultimately the team has to come first and nothing has come out that particularly vindicates Russell. Unfortunately everyone loses in this scenario – Including Russell.

        Townshend is open to criticism for his handling of the situation but he faced similar problems with a wantaway Hogg and manages it very well. So I hope he manages to bring Russell round and they can both renew their focus on succeeding with Scotland.

      3. It is not often I agree with Gregor Townsend but on this one , I do. There must be standards of behaviour for everyones sake. He is dead right. But that is as much as I concede.

        A few drinks can have the habit of ending badly, that was a mistake on the part of the SRU. Drink by all means, out of camp.

        The call to Finn to return is too strong and too long in my opinion , is it an olive branch or closure !

        Tom English reports there has been tension for a while, if so, I do not believe Finn can return to this environment.

        While Finn stays away, there is the chance of the press publishing Finn’s side of this story. I think he is just waiting his time.

        He is not scooping too many now, is he ! Very clear headed. Advantage Finn.

  4. This is a very alarming preview. We’ve lost already if the stats play out. Yet we as a rugby side have to rise up and be beyond the stats, take our destiny and shape it by what we do….in order to change the stats for the future . Ireland and Wales in particular are proof of changing culture, belief and ultimately become a successful side from very little.

  5. Absolutely Referendum. If we look at the stats to every game or every season prior we’ll never have faith. To hell with stats. Loose heads, loose balls – lose the game.
    Get brutal, get savage, get the job done right! More structure to the game plan will set up platforms to attack and win percentages. Its simple!!!Game Scotland – right!!

  6. Can think of a few more stats to make the blood curdle. One of these is that we usually start the tournament badly, especially away from home, in the professional era. Has anything changed to make things come together more quickly? Will our lineout, scrum, restarts and defense fully function from the start? Do we have any new tricks in attack?

    I totally agree that both Glasgow and Edinburgh don’t have any fear playing Leinster and can regularly beat all the other Irish provinces. So all things being equal this should be contestable.

    Its sport so nothing is certain!

  7. I think we’ll see a totally different Scotland performance this 6 nations and it’ll surprise a lot of people.

    1. Ive a feeling that Hastings will do a better job than Russell has done in these big matches. He strikes me as a better decision maker and kicker ….but also likes to run through the line.
      We’ll see..
      …. as fantastic as Russells distribution can be… he really blows hot and cold …and makes alot of costly poor decisions that eventually tire our defenses out.
      Defense has to be exceptional to play with Russell….and last year it wasn’t even better than poor.
      Defense will be better under Tandy….it cant be any worse….whether he can make significant changes in a couple of weeks seems hard to imagine. If he does…sign him up on a long contract…or handcuff him to murrayfield…either one.

  8. For me, the most telling stat from our last encounter was how many tries we left on the field. With a little more composure, we’d have won that. And the time before Ireland, like Exeter against Warriors a couple of weeks back, could only score while we had a man in the bin or when something calamitous happened. It didn’t help that Gauzere didn’t have a damn clue what a ruck was, Barclay’s card was an absolute joke. My point is that our two most recent defeats there haven’t been physical, they’ve been psychological.

    1. Hastings will step up.
      He’s potentially as good as Finn.

      Anyone think we’ll see Bolters?
      I think CdP and Tagive have a chance, definitely over the 6N if not this game.

      I like Tagive. Took him a while to adjust but he’s a hell of an athlete.

  9. Amazed at the suggestion that Raynal has been kind to us. Stats can lie some times. Squint feed call in first 10 minutes on our 5 metre line v Wales comes to mind, and in that game against England he was marching them up the field at times.

  10. At the moment all I can say is that I look forward to being pleasantly surprised when we aren’t an absolute shambles on the pitch. I’m not sure that Tandy has had enough time to sort the defence out so we might have to wait a few games for this though.

    The one glimmer of hope I can see is that Hastings has been good in the past of finding gaps in midfield and getting through them and making an offload. If he can manage that then we (assuming the right centres are selected) should have players in (including Horne/Price) who can get behind the Irish defence and cause them problems. Unfortunately, what is equally likely to happen is Hastings is so under pressure from the Irish defence (and slow ball from our forwards) that he takes the wrong options and keeps getting smashed and we get turned over. Did I say “equally” likely? Probably should be “more” likely.

  11. But James if the back row do their job correctly in any situation where Hastings experiences the pressure you have mentioned it should be sorted on the spot. its a basic rule look after your 10 and don’t get bullied!!!

    1. Fair point. And we’ve had lots of posts on here about how good our back rowers are so that’ll all be fine.

      Except it won’t and I expect Ireland’s back row will dominate and ours will be MIA, probably having to do too much in the tight to be effective in the loose.

      And Hastings will be smashed and we’ll be turned over and it’ll all end in disaster.

      Sorry, think I need to go find my happy place and give Scotland rugby articles a miss for a bit 😳

      1. James, I think you are spot on. Watch Hastings for Glasgow. Under pressure his out is an over the top pass out wide. When it’s not on he hits the breaks turns back inside and gets clobbered and isolated. If I see this and I know nothing about rugby then sure as hell Farrell sees it.

        I have never known such despondency before week one. That usually comes in after we get pumped on the opening day…..

        Our back row is bang average in international terms. In fact our whole squad looks bang average. If we finish above 5th it will be a miracle (but one I would enjoy!)

  12. The improvement in the Warriors pack these last two months or so and the improvement in the Edinburgh pack over these last two years gives me some hope that we could match Ireland up front on Saturday. If we can, it’s definitely game on.

    Getting battered up front in Dublin, Cardiff, Paris and south west London has happened far too often in recent years, and no amount of tricksy, lightning quick, twinkle-toed work behind the pack ever seems to have made up the difference- except maybe that glorious 35 minutes or so of mayhem at Twickenham last year.

    Match them/beat them up front on Saturday and we’ve got a chance of our first win there in 10 years. Think it really turns, as it often does in opening matches of 6N Tests, on the forward battle.

    In their faces from the off, Scotland!

  13. …on a side note…

    That’ll put an end to the return of big Vern…
    Just signed as Fiji coach for next 3 years.

    1. Did Gregor Townsend get an interview? I would have thought that would be right up his street. That is the ideal team to play the fastest brand of rugby in the world. I am sure Vern Cotter will be amazing for Fiji.

  14. Keep reading “Hastings, this/Hastings that….” Has the team been announced? I’d be happy to see Weir trusted with the job of keeping the Irish pinned in the corner of their own half. Seems like Hogg has mustered the odd long range clearance to touch as well.

    1. Er, maybe I’m a hater then, as I recall Weir being picked by Vern to do that kind of job in Dublin in 2016 and he simply couldn’t do it. Pleased to hear he’s done very well at Worcester but unless he’s come on in leaps and bounds to be able to thrive at Test level, he’s part of our past and not our future.

    2. No, not Weir – been there, done that. Didn’t work.
      I know that he’s done a reasonable job at Worcester but I watched him at the weekend and I saw nothing to convince me that he’s international quality.
      Hastings on the other hand is in the form of his life. He’s a bolter for 10. Big question is who will provide cover.

    3. If Townshend thought Weir could be our 10 in Dublin he would have chosen him for the squad before the Finn debacle. It’ll be Hastings.

  15. I’ve been impressed with Hastings recently but Weir is the man for Saturday. Last time we won in Dublin we had a more talented, rounded version of Weir in the drivers seat in Dan Parks and he was man of the match. Weir may not have Dan’s ability to get the back line fizzing and crackling but he does kick as well as Dan, who won us the match with his kicking last time we won in Dublin.

    I have a bad feeling about this tournament, wooden spoon is a gift at 11/1. Not so much about any continued absence of Russell in itself, more that situation may be symptomatic of unrest in the camp. I’m not sold on GT and not sold on Hogg as captain. GT can say playing for your national team is the pinnacle but Russell is paid handsomely for playing his way at Racing, is GT jealous? I wouldn’t blame Russell for turning his back on the test team.

  16. Purely on form..

    1. Dell
    2. Brown
    3. Fagerson
    4. Gray
    5. Cummings
    6. Crosbie
    7. Ritchie
    8. Watson (Cant argue he is not a ball carrier)
    9. Horne
    10. Hastings
    11. Kinghorn
    12. Scott
    13. Hutchison
    14. Maitland
    15. Hogg

    16. Turner
    17. Sutherland
    18. Berghan
    19. Gilchrist
    20. Bradbury
    21. Price
    22. Weir
    23. Jones

  17. Got to say usually by this point in the 6N cycle I’m overly optimistic that we can set the tourney alight…… but this time round I just don’t see us doing anything to upset the odds in Dublin or elsewhere. Such a talented group of players as well but seems we are just going backwards. Irelands pack will annihilate us and without Finn I cant see how we break the gain-line enough to make a difference.

  18. Getting really cheesed off with all the defeatist, surrender attitudes. Do you not watch our players in the Pro14 or elsewhere? Sure, there’s been indifferent form but it’s not been accepted at club level. We are Scottish. We can be as HAF, we do not accept defeat. We are belligerent. We do have players. I concede the team line-up is not settled but don’t tell me my first choice team and replacements can’t do a job. They’re maybe not so familiar, but nothing 2 weeks
    coaching can’t fix. We need to let Ireland know they’re in a game:

    Fagerson/Berghan but wound up
    2 of 4 wingers Maitland Kinghorn Steyn Tagive
    2 of 4 centres Scott Hutchinson Jones Johnson
    Hogg plus 1

    1. I’m with you Scottie…an awful lot of negative chat and people talking about putting bets on us for the Wooden Spoon, disgraceful behaviour!

      Edinburgh have had a cracking season and Glasgow’s form over the past couple of months has been nearing their best for years. We have 4 centres that would be in discussion of getting into any other 6 nation team, Hogg who is on great form for Exeter, half backs that are flying for Glasgow and a pack that finally looks like it can compete with the big boys and actually make some yards. Fraser Brown has been turning over ball in his sleep!

      Time to cheer up, it is not as if Ireland are coming off the back of a great year themselves…this one is there for the taking. Interesting to hear on the BBC Rugby Union Weekly Ashton talking about how Tandy has been doing a brilliant job so far and the boys are really buying into it too. Scotland to beat Ireland at 11/2 is the bet you should be placing!

  19. Hear, Hear Scottie! to hell with the negative non believers and the stats man. It is about time as much as we have felt the pain and hard times. For the sake of all lets get behind this team and the nation as one!

    1. We are right behind them and we will be better than expected. But I think it would be a good time to point out the Telegraph on line has Sir Ian McGeechan predictions for the 6N.

      For those that dont know , former centre, scottish coach, lions coach and it is not positive for us.

      He puts Scotland 5th ,one ahead of Italy. Thinks Ireland’s senior players need to step up, rates England, thinks Wales could suffer further injury problems and would you believe , France are his dark Horses for the Championship.

      I recall a bit of a debate arising as a poster suggested France had leapfrogged Scotland. I think Geech is in that camp as well.

  20. I fear the worst. Yesterday, as i put on my ‘lucky’ Scotland Bawbag boxers, they split at the crotch and arse simultaneously! All walnut and crack, awful stuff. They are in the bin now and i have no adequate replacement for the weekend. I am taking it as a dark, dark omen.

    1. Hmm, if you’ve been wearing them all this time, through the World Cup and before, thank christ they’ve gone. Good omen.

  21. I think Ireland have picked a very strong 23. I’m not sure where we’re going to get a foothold in this game.

    1. Take the points at every opportunity and defend with our lives, not going to get many tries (if any) through open play against that side.

    2. I think we can pick a 23 to match them. It doesn’t fill me with fear. As Brown says, we need to stop beating ourselves. We can put out a 23 as strong as anyone bar NZ. We just need the mental fortitude and the ‘lucky’ breaks that other teams seem to get.

    1. Why should we be ashamed ? I’ve watched Scotland for 30 years and yes, this is the most talented squad we have had in that time led by a mercurial world class number 10. Yet……. it’s a shambles behind the scenes all the way up to the top. You don’t win professional sports through hope and being hard as f***. You win by being a well-oiled, well-drilled, accurate, focused and settled team. At the moment nothing tells me we are any of those things. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong and maybe Finn leaving can galvanise the team in Dublin…..but odds, stats and history are not behind us. I’m fed up of being optimistic and then seeing us getting pumped. Better to be realistic and pleasantly surprised if things go well.

  22. Hold on to the ball, don’t kick possession away. If you are going to kick, kick long to touch and challenge the line out. Only box kick if your players have at least a 50% chance of winning it back.

    1. Ireland have selected Herring at Hooker and no Toner to start, so line out is definitely a set piece we can pressure.

      It’s about the only real weakness in the lineup tbh but might potentially give us a foothold in the game if we can disrupt it.

      1. Who is going to be in our lineout though FF? Glasgow’s lineout has been a shambles at times this year, and Edinburgh’s has not always been great either? Not doom-mongering, I’ve been genuinely wondering about it. If Toony were to select Brown, Cummings, and Gray, which is possible, I’ve seen some poor lineout performances from that unit in tbe fairly recent past.

      2. Yeah its interesting they’ve gone with Herring and Henderson when Ulster’s lineout has been by far the worst part of their game this year.

        This is why I’d have Toolis alongside Gray. Gilchrist has been unimpressive for me recently and while Toolis may not be world class or a game breaker, he brings solidity to the set piece. Pretty sure the best combo for our lineout was McInally, Gray and Toolis against NZ and Aus in autumn ’17.

        Cummings on the bench atm to offer some carrying power later in the game.

      1. Agreed. We need to find a way of getting Hutchinson in as well. Altho for continuity purposes I reckon Johnson will start at 12

      2. It’s good to have so much competition in the centres but it is going to be tricky getting the right blend. For me, Johnson hasn’t quite done enough to keep the jersey. I’d like to see us go for it and choose Scott/Jones with Hutchison on the bench to cover 10/12/13. I’d be happy with Scott/Hutchison too.

        Obviously that is a big risk and Weir might get onto the bench instead, but perhaps Jones can cover wing if absolutely necessary?

      3. Not sure why it is overdue? He didn’t get picked for world cup due to form. If he’d had even a glimmer he’d had gone. Then at first chance after world cup he gets the nod. Not so much overdue as timely???

  23. Crikey. Flakiness from some fans, are these the same fans who usually go from thinking we’ll win the 6N to getting whitewashed after 1 bad performance?

    Farrell thinks we’re flaky hence his crude boast about Ireland having a hell of a team.

    We saw the flaky Scotland and the confident Scotland in 2 halves v England last season!

    We’ve got to be tougher than this!

    Focus on the performance and yes, Ireland are decent but a lot of that is to do with belief and mentality. Their new players have come up through their U20s and Scotland v Ireland U20 games have been very competitive over the last few years so the players should be confident they can perform and compete.

    We’ve got a decent team too, but if we stand off them or break our structure by going for the William Wallace big hit or 50/50 forced pass it’s not going to work.

    The only reason we’ll do that will be lack of belief.

    Expectations aren’t very high so just concentrate on playing our game well.

  24. As always there’s a chance on Saturday….

    However playing such a strong Ireland team away from home without Finn makes this highly unlikely.

    I predict Ireland to win this by around 15-20 points.

    I’ll be happy with a loss if we play to our potential and pick up the LBP.

  25. Townsend went with a very defensive centre pairing to the World Cup. The best attacking combination for Saturday, in my view, would be Hutchinson (12) and Jones (13). Hutchinson can support Hastings and has a better skill set than Johnson while Jones has the pace to out-manoeuvre Aki and Kearney. Its probable that Townsend will go with the Warriors pairing (Johnson and Jones) to compliment Horne/Price and Hastings at 9 & 10 as they all play together with Hutchinson on the bench. This will be safer but less adventurous. Thank goodness Grigg is not in contention.

    Much more importantly however, is how our forwards shape up. The Irish score tries through rolling mauls and sheer bloody mindedness. We must counter this threat or we’re in for a pile of dirge from the Irish with them squeezing the life out of the game and winning. I hope Tandy, even though its early days, has done his homework on Leinster and Ireland’s success and does a much better job than Taylor. As many others have said, Scotland forwards need to turn up for a full 80 minutes, keep their heads, don’t give away needless penalties, at least hold their own in scrums and attack the Irish line out.

    Fingers crossed and I hope they go well.

    1. I hope it’s Scott and Jones. I don’t think Johnson’s form warrants a start ahead of Scott.
      Hutch on the bench for me as a real impact player covering 10 and centres.

      1. I agree with Scott & Jones to start; Scott has shown great form recently & offers more than Johnson. Hutchinson on the bench but can he seriously cover 10 at this level? He doesn’t play there regularly for Saints let alone asking at International level. I’d go Weir on bench too & Hutch to cover 12/13 with Jones perhaps needing to do a make-shift job on the wing but far rather that than a make-shift at 10. Or will Toony pick Harris or Steyn on the bench so centre/wing is covered; a waste of what Hutch can bring if you ask me but then, thankfully, I don’t have to make that call!

  26. Added pressure in this 6 nations with World Rugby saying they will finalise the seedings for the next world cup (2023) this November! Meaning we have a very tough 6 Nations followed by the hardest summer tour (possibly in Scottish rugby history) to move from 9th in the world to 8th. A very difficult task meaning it could be a very difficult pool for us in the next world cup. Why they do the seedings so far in advance is completely beyond me.

    1. Japan are only 0.05 points above us. It would take a defeat to Italy to keep us from reclaiming 8th (minimum target) Win over Ire and Eng and we will be heading back towards 7th / 6th.

    2. As an aside, Japan are playing wales and England twice this summer, so I would be shocked to see anything other than 3 Japan losses.

  27. Overall I think the team for Ireland is looking pretty clear. In the backs, I think there’s 2 positions where there’s some debate. Firstly, inside centre. It’s a contest between Hutchinson, Scott and Johnson. I’d really like to see Scott get the nod. However I think Gregor may be tempted to go for Johnson. Without Russell he may prefer him as he’s already got a good understanding with Hastings. I think there’s some debate at scrum half but for me George Horne is outstanding and should be one of the first names on the team sheet.

    In the forwards, there’s 2 selection decisions. Firstly, tighthead prop. I really rate Nel but Zander looks to be getting back to his best. I’d start him against Ireland with Nel coming off the bench on 50 minutes (hopefully we’ll be in the game)! That leaves the question of who partners Johnny. I’d like to see Scott Cummings get the nod. For me, too often Gilchrist hasn’t quite imposed himself. Again, he’d be a good option from the bench.

    For the rest of the 23, I think we’ll see Chris Harris (which is fine just not very exciting) and Duncan Weir (same). I’d also like to see Haining – though think Gregor may opt for Du Preez.

    Here’s my team:

    Hogg, Kinghorn, Jones, Johnson, Maitland, Hastings, Horne, Dell, Brown, Fagersen, Gray, Cummings, Ritchie, Watson, Bradbury. Subs: Turner (assuming McInally is not fit?), Sutherland, Nel, Gilchrist, Haining, Price, Weir, Harris.

    1. I think its a tricky one to call. Front 5 I think you have right. No idea who Toony thinks his best back row are but he might go for high impact off the bench and put Watson there. Then start Richie, Bradbury and one of the big beasts. Actually wouldn’t be surprised with something radical like Cummings at 8, as we could do with an extra lineout option and he plays like a ball carrying 8, but more likely to be someone who regularly plays there.

      Its 50/50 at scrum half. I think Horne is the better finisher. So maybe it will be a bench to bring speed in the last 20 minutes.

      On that theme it wouldn’t be impossible to see Kinghorn on the bench and to start with Steyn or Tagive on the wing. I also think that Hutchinson might fill the final back slot on the bench.

      1. Not bad calls. Hard direct runners in Steyn and Tagive.

        Tagive is faster. Might see him on the bench.

      2. Until recently Watson was seen as our best player. So putting him on the bench would be a waste. Impact subs only make an impact if you’re still in the game. I’d say the same for Horne. They’d both make an impact off the bench because they’re fantastic players, so let’s start them. Or surely we risk being 20 points down and out of the game by the time they appear.

        On the wingers, you never know with Gregor but I would be surprised if we see an uncapped player here. This is Ireland in Dublin. Remember Wakes in Cardiff (2018). Kinghorn should start but I wouldn’t be against someone other than Harris on the bench. But Gregor seems to really like him so there you go.

      3. I wish Gregor would like winning more than experimenting and trying to find a roboplayer that can play the game to his ever changing mind.

  28. This game will be won or lost by the forwards. If they can get parity then Hastings is more than good enough to harness the talent outside him and make the game competitive.

    If we are (as usual against Ireland) bullied up front then the Irish defence will swarm him and constantly see us on the back foot. We’ll lose and moan about the offside line and the usual stuff.

  29. The thing is when Scotland try to play wide wide against well organised blitz defense such as England, Ireland, Wales and now France we knock the ball on. From the scrum we often concede a penalty and then face a line out back in our 22 and normally it’s just a matter of time until a try is scored and I don’t see how we brake that cycle if Gregor insists on playing the same way.
    I agree with earlier posts that we could target their line out at least until Toner comes on so kick to touch but our best line out options are Toolis and Gilchrist, I don’t see Gray and Cummings getting any clear advantage over Hendersen and Ryan. Anyway that is pretty much against the GT blue print. The other option is contestable kicks and put Maintland, Kinghorn, Ritchie, Bradbury up against the Irish but they roundly beat us with that tactic in the world cup. We could try to smash it round the ruck but do we have the ball carriers for that? We could try to kick to space but can Hastings and Hogg kicking off slow backfoot ball win a kicking battle against Murray and Sexton behind a dominant pack? And all of this against an Irish team looking to bounce back, impress their new coach and roared on by a home crowd. We might put in a dogged defense with a huge tackle count but if we have nowhere to go when we win the ball it’s just a matter of time till the injuries and points start to rack up. Sorry for the doom but that’s my honest assessment.

    1. I think the crux of the issues with GT and FR is the coach has tried to move Scotland away from what you call the wide-game. Hence all the kicking. We haven’t done it very well and Russell has pushed back against that approach as he wants to play fast and wide.

      We’re in a difficult transition – we had some success with a style but possibly hit a fairly low glass ceiling. We’re now trying to play more tactically astute but not doing it very well and it’s losing elements in the dressing room.

      It’s evolve or die time under Townshend.

      1. This the second time youve made the glass ceiling comment about previous style. I completely disagree. We had a style that worked. Yes it was not straight line improvement and of course it was slowing in pace but we were getting there, could beat anyone on day and were still improving. All we really needed was to bolster the pack (settled 1,2, 6, 8), maintain some bite in the 10 / 12 channel and make sure everyone was on the same hymn book when it comes to rush defence or whatever. That could have been achieved by folding in the new generation and persevering with Strauss, Denton or Blade, while keeping Dunbar / Taylor at 12. Introducing a few more strategic kicks from the right zone is hardly a new playbook and could have been done naturally. Bottom line, the ceiling would have continued to raise with the introduction Ritchie, Bradbury, Graham, Kinghorn, Horne into a settled team playing the best aspects of respective club rugby at international level. Instead there was a collective Wile Coyote moment against Wales and a good plan that allowed us to beat anyone (Ireland, Wales, Australia, NZ, second half England) has been binned because of one set back.

    2. Scotland need to offer more of a direct running threat inside and more carrying threat in the forwards.
      To my mind that means Scott at 12 and Cummings, Fagerson, Bradbury in the starting 8 with 1 of CdP, Crosbie or Haining covering back row. Maybe we’ll also see Tagive on the bench as from what I’ve seen he has a very aggressive game and runs angles close to the ruck.

      When we played Ireland last time we went wide too often and too early and because our pack didn’t have much ball carrying threat the Irish forwards could crowd the outfield and wait for Hogg.

      If we do that and focus on performance rather than fear losing then we can compete, and if we compete then you never know…..

  30. I would like to see a significant improvement in areas which have previously caused us serious problems, namely, kick off retention, secure under the high ball, physicality and defensive solidity. If we are successful in those areas the result will take care of itself. Otherwise it will be a repeat of the same old movie.

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