Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Ireland v Scotland, Six Nations 2020: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

[Edinburgh, UK. November 25, 2017] Huw Jones - Scotland vs Australia in the Autumn Test at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Less than five months after their last meeting, Ireland and Scotland go head to head again with the Scots looking to turn the tables after getting yanked in Yokohama.

Of the 46 players who were listed for that RWC encounter 27 return. There have been 4 confirmed retirements and a handful of other players may also have featured for their national sides for the last time. Among the starting line-ups 18 of the 30 players who kicked off the opening pool match in Japan return for this fixture – 13 for Ireland and just 5 for the Scots.

Tale of the tape

69   Tries   59
94kg   Average weight   94kg
281   Total caps   209
120   6N caps   93
6N debutants   0
27.9   Average age   26.5

892kg   Pack weight   910kg
Tries   13
281   Total caps   179
117   6N caps   66
6N debutants   2
27.4   Average age   26.6

11   Tries   19
241   Total caps   140
97   6N caps   50
6N debutants   2
27.8   Average age   27.6

10 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Japan)

  • 14 – Maitland for Seymour [+]
  • 13 – Jones for Harris [+]
  • 11 – Kinghorn for Graham [-]
  • 10 – Hastings for Russell [-]
  • 9 – Price for Laidlaw [+]
  • 1 – Sutherland for Dell [=]
  • 3 – Fagerson for Nel [+]
  • 4 – Cummings for Gilchrist [+]
  • 6/7 – Watson for Bradbury with Ritchie moving from 7 to 6 [+]
  • 8 – Haining for Thomson [-]


15 Jordan Larmour
14 Andrew Conway
13 Garry Ringrose
12 Bundee Aki
11 Jacob Stockdale
10 Johnny Sexton
9 Conor Murray

1 Cian Healy
2 Rob Herring
3 Tadhg Furlong
4 Iain Henderson
5 James Ryan
6 CJ Stander
7 Josh van der Flier
8 Caelan Doris

16 Ronan Kelleher
17 Dave Kilcoyne
18 Andrew Porter
19 Devin Toner
20 Peter O’Mahony
21 John Cooney
22 Ross Byrne
23 Robbie Henshaw

ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland
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ADV Ireland
ADV Scotland

ADV Ireland
ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland
ADV Ireland
ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland

ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland
ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland
ADV Ireland

15 Stuart Hogg (c)
14 Sean Maitland
13 Huw Jones
12 Sam Johnson
11 Blair Kinghorn
10 Adam Hastings
9 Ali Price

1 Rory Sutherland
2 Fraser Brown
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Scott Cummings
5 Jonny Gray
6 Jamie Ritchie
7 Hamish Watson
8 Nick Haining

16 Stuart McInally
17 Allan Dell
18 Simon Berghan
19 Ben Toolis
20 Cornell du Preez
21 George Horne
22 Rory Hutchinson
23 Chris Harris


Backs – advantage Ireland

This is the same Irish unit that took to the field for these sides’ RWC pool match in September. The stats for both backlines that day were pretty similar but Ireland were working with much better ball and their halfbacks dictated the tempo and patterns of the game.

Scotland will be hoping their fresh 9/10 axis of Ali Price and Adam Hastings can change the picture – they’ll need to complement their dual running threat with some astute kicking though. A trio of full backs in the back 3 should help the Scots counter Conway and Stockdale in the air. They may miss the electric spark of compact winger, Darcy Graham though.

Forwards – advantage Ireland

At 910kgs this is the heaviest pack ever selected by Gregor Townsend for Scotland. It is 34kgs heavier than the 8 listed for the game against Ireland during the RWC. There’s surely no question that Toony is looking for a really physical, aggressive performance from his forwards to counter an Irish pack that dismantled the dark blues a few months ago.

On their day all of the tight 5 selected are capable of contributing in the setpiece and the loose. It’s around the breakdown that the Irish have really dominated in recent years and players like Zander Fagerson and Jonny Gray will need to show the very best of their early season form to provide any kind of counter to the home side’s threat in this area.

Subs– advantage Ireland

Backup scrum halves John Cooney and George Horne can both consider themselves unlucky not to be starting this game. So far this season, Cooney has scored 9 tries in 15 games. Horne has 6 in 11 (plus his hat-trick at the World Cup). Expect fireworks when these two get on the pitch.


– It’s been 1,316 days since Rory Sutherland’s last appearance for Scotland and 727 days since Cornell Du Preez’s last Test match.

– Of the 8 players making their Six Nations’ debuts in this match, George Horne is the most experienced with 10 caps already under his belt.

Rory Sutherland and Nick Haining will take the tally of players who have featured in the Townsend era to 74.

– With one eye on the 2023 World Cup, Ireland have 10 players aged 29 or older in their lineup (6 starters and 4 subs) who might be considered unlikely to make it to France in 4 years’ time. Scotland have 6 in the 29+ bracket (3 starters and 3 subs).

– There are a number of graduates from these two countries’ encounter at age-grade level during the pool stages of the 2015 World Rugby U20 Championship. Included in the lineups that day were:

  • Ireland: 1. Andrew Porter; 13. Garry Ringrose; 23 Jacob Stockdale
  • Scotland: 3. Zander Fagerson; 4. Scott Cummings; 7 Jamie Ritchie; 9. George Horne; 10. Blair Kinghorn; 22. Rory Hutchinson

Missed part 1? Check it out here. Featuring the previous history between these two sides; Ireland scouting report; and Scotland’s record with M. Raynal as referee.

53 Responses

  1. Hard to see where we can gain a foothold in this game. Herring is poor so we need to attack their line out. Apart from that…

    We really need to reach a new level of aggression and bloody-mindedness to get anything here. But enough players are young or untested and must be in the
    business of setting new Standards and expectations for themselves.

    I hope we’re still in it in the last quarter and see Horne and Hutch come on to throw some new problems their way. Unfortunately I can’t see much impact from the forwards in the bench.

    1. Perhaps we should test there scrum and see if we can bully them in that area, play it smart kick the point we get offered and hope we can keep the game tight throughout.

    2. I agree, I worry that we have picked two tall props at tighthead if the ref decides that the scrums are going down becasue the scottish tighthead has his feet too far back then replacing Fagerson with Bergan is not going to be able to change that. I would much rather have seen Nel there somewhere just to show a different picture. At least an extra 34kg in the pack should help and 18kg more than the irish pack so If our guys are getting dominated it will be by smaller men.

      1. Yeah, there scrum is just better than ours. I don’t see that changing.

        In the other hand, Zander is a young man who has come a long way in scrummaging this year. You only earn a better rep by beating stronger opponents.

        This game is all upside, assuming we show some fight and organisation.

    3. Think the problem we have at scrum time is that in recent times we have been perceived as a weak unit, therefore we have to create a very good picture as it’s likely most 50/50s will go in favour of green.

    4. Where do we get a foothold?

      In the forwards.

      They front up, it’s game on.

      They don’t, then it’s same old story.

      We’ve picked a pack which can do it. They’ve got to be up for it.

  2. Its forecast bright and clear at KO time 15 mph winds and relatively warm. It will have been very windy earlier on and if that does not clear up on time it could have an impact on the kicking game. I hope the boys have been working on their fielding of kicks in training. In the past we’ve seemed to lose every box kick directed at us by the Irish, and then gifted them possession with our slack kicking. Apart from all the other issues , like getting reamed by the Irish front 5 and making loads of unforced errors this is a worry. Despite all of the statistical and form factors being against us still feeling a tinge of optimism. Agree with above line out could be the key.

  3. I like the tactic of taking 3 FB’s that are competent to a high level on the wing also. I hope this stunts the impact of the Irish kicking game!

    I agree with what was said by Sam regarding the refs perception when it comes to scrum time. Their scrum is excellent, which leaves us open to all kinds of problems with little difference between on-field and sub players.

    I haven’t seen Herring play, but from what I understand he may be the weak link. Although I find that hard to believe. If he is, lineouts might be our golden ticket. However, our lineouts have rarely been a source of pride!

    If I am honest, I feel a comfortable win for Ireland. But it will at least give a great opportunity to those who have stepped up for this campaign and fingers crossed, it pays dividends for the remainder of the tournament and beyond.

    I’m also not convinced that Hogg is an advantage over Larmour. I’d have them pegged equal! Devin Toner, whilst he runs like an injured giraffe simply has to be an advantage over Toolis! I have never rated Toolis and he has never really given any reason for me, why he get’s a nod over say, anyone else! I have a theory that Gilchrist is made of warm chocolate. But at least his line out success rate is better.

  4. That’s a starting pack that could go well in Dublin tomorrow. Plenty of heft, dog and experience in there combined with newer/returning players on good current form anxious no doubt to make their mark.
    A controlled and mistake-free first 15 minutes or so would be great to see. It would quieten the Dublin crowd and start to make Ireland have doubts about their own game plan. Maybe a mistake-free first 20 on reflection as iirc we started pretty comfortably in Cardiff and Dublin in 2018 before daft, no-heads up, intercepted passes stuck us on the back foot and we never recovered.
    Online punters have written us off. Evens for an Ireland win with a 14 point handicap. Ireland scratch win 8/1 on, and Scotland scratch win 11/2 against. Scotland price very tempting – backed them at the same odds to win in Croke Park in 2010 – but have steered clear of backing us in any Test since then for fear of putting the hoodoo on the team. Having said that, a handicap win at evens plus 14 points is sorely tempting.
    Whatever, come on Scotland!

  5. Has anyone the inclination to a breakdown on those pack weights, for interest? :)

    1. I had a quick bash out of interest earlier, but these are mental rather than computed calculations as Excel is playing up. We’re 18Kgs heavier overall. Ten in the front row, thirteen in the second row, twenty three in the tight five and we’re five lighter in the back row. But Watson fights in the weight category above his own, so I’d call it even!

      1. Fagerson 126kg v 122kg Furlong
        Brown 113kg v 103kg Herring
        Sutherland 113kg v 115kg Healy
        Gray 121kg v 110kg Ryan
        Cummings 116kg v 117kg Henderson
        Ritchie 105kg v 114kg Stander
        Watson 102kg v 104kg Van der Flier
        Haining 116kg v 106kg Doris

        I think our backrow is actually about the same, Haining slightly heavier than Stander, VdF a kilo or so more than Watson and Doris a kilo more than Ritchie.

        Gray is a decent chunk heavier than Ryan and Brown again a decent chunk more than Herring which is where most of the difference is coming from.

      2. These both v interesting, thanks! Looks pretty damn evenly matched. Never really understand what goes on in scrum to win/lose, save if mismatch TH to LH. V pleased Sutherland starting, rather than Dell against Furlong. Parity would go a long way, hope reputation doesn’t count against…

  6. Perhaps a big aspect of our gameplan for tomorrow is we should be kicking high balls at there back three and Having Hogg Kinghorn and Maitland competing for them

    All 3 of our players should have an advantage in collecting high balls over there back three surely ?!

    Flip side of that is Larmour and Stockdale are dangerous counter attackers i would imagine..

  7. Weight means bugger all. It is the size of the fight in the dog not the size of the dog in the fight that counts and we have consistently come off second best to Ireland in that department (With the honourable exceptions of Ritchie and Watson).
    I reckon tomorrow will be no different the Irish will just wait on us to make the traditional mistakes :
    1. Failing to secure the kick off
    2. Going wide off back foot ball and knocking on
    3, Getting penalised at the ensuing scrum and ending up back on our own line.

    You can bet that Farrell has planned lots of blind alleys for Hastings to run up and get battered

    And without the maestro to entertain us it will not be pretty watching!

    Incidently I hear that Finn has applied for the French equivalent of “settled status” and that Fabien Galthie is his sponsor. What next a change of nationality?

    1. When have Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, Cummings or Haining come off second best to Ireland in the physicality stakes? Some of those players may have been on the losing side, but I don’t recall seeing them overpowered.

  8. The players and coaches would have already figured this one out Andrew regarding the Irish looking to disrupt Hastings. look our for Jamie Ritchie and rest of the forwards hitting any one off trying to bully him. Just wait and see for the first 15 minutes in how many times our boys will be fronting up to the Irish and showing them who’s who. Cant wait. COME ON SCOTLAND

  9. Anyone know how to watch U20s six nations tonight? Wheres the match suggests that its on Youtube.

  10. Forget line outs, scrums, and fielding box kicks. Of course that’s a challenge that we have to face up to.

    Where we’ll be judged is on aggression up front. Let them bully us as per normal, and everything else is moot. Stand up to them and compete: then we give ourselves a chance and everything else becomes important-the fine margins between winning and losing, and we deal ourselves in with a chance of winning.

    With Ritchie, Watson, and that front row, I see a wonderful opportunity for turnover ball which could unlock everything. The key of course with the Irish is waiting for your moment. There has been so much negativity around our pack for so long that I think this group will come out the traps hard. In fact my biggest fear is they come our too hard, a flurry of injuries and a flurry of penalties and our game plan inverting.

    So I have no expectation result wise for this game. Give me controlled aggression up front that stands up to Ireland, and then we can start talking about set pieces and backs. If Nothing else, Ritchie and Watson in together from the start has given me a mild case of the horn.

  11. The anticipation is killing me. That mixture of optimism and trepidation. I don’t expect a win but want to see a performance. Agree with Ali-boy, it will come down to the forwards and getting the balance right between aggression and discipline. If we concede too many pens there is a risk of implosion as i cannot see any positive changes from the bench and we are lacking ‘wise’ heads. If we deliver up front we will be in the game. Come on boys……Gerr intae them!

  12. Winner takes all Sweepstake! which key player will the Irish injure first:

    Hogg (again) £20
    Watson (again) £15
    Hastings £10
    Price £10
    Brown £10
    Jones £5
    Ritchie £5
    Kinghorn £5

    Buy your stake at*

    *just in case you’re a numpty: this is a joke. Until it happens.

    1. They already have. I heard P. O’Mahony was behind the bar in Edinburgh and kept serving Finn doubles.

  13. Reasonably good performance so far – need to try and stop Ireland turning it over but otherwise doing well.

    Price needs to work a bit harder and Jones a little flaky in defence.

    Have to say Hogg really seems to have stepped up.

    Also, God I hate Sexton

  14. Ireland winning on the ground – again. Penalty against Price was nonsense as the ball was clearly out. Mind you, it was the fastest move he has made all afternoon.

  15. Is anyone running a sweepstake on the number of references to Adam Hastings’ Dad or Uncle ?

    1. Yeah, you would think they would have got past all that by now.

      He has had a pretty decent game so far.

  16. Too many mistakes in the red zone but at least there’s some commitment. Better but still need to think a bit more and stop conceding stupid penalties.

  17. All the chat on Ireland’s line out being a weakness seems to have been the wrong way round. We need to sort ours fast.

  18. Yes of course the result hurts but please whatever else you post give credit to the heart and commitment of ‘ our ‘ team.

    1. Nah would rather see Finn back in the fold and the team pulling together before any credit given anywhere. Pro players. Basic mistakes. Not good enough before the day not good enough on day. Game lost. Though fantastic to see Sutherland back.

      1. Team for England based on that showing:

        Hogg; Graham/Kinghorn, Jones, Johnson, Maitland; Russell/Hastings, Price
        Sutherland, McInally, Fagerson; Cummings, Gray; Ritchie, Watson; Haining
        (Brown, Dell, Berghan, Toolis, Bradbury, Horne, Hastings/Steyn, Hutchinson)

  19. At least we turned up to play and really fronted up. Probably could and should have won but not feeling overwhelmed with disappointment. Bonus point might be useful later.

  20. On one hand I’m very angry but on the other it wasn’t that bad. We certainly played with some fire. We weren’t outplayed by Ireland in any department but we didn’t create very much and we made far too many mistakes and are still carved open far too easily.

    Highlights for me were the backrow, all of them played very well and Haining did not look like a new cap, Sutherland was ace. The substitute backs made an impact.

    Lowlights, Price was slow, Horne needs to start. Zandbags wasn’t bad but he’s still a liability. Johnson played well but looked very slow, I know he’s not a speed machine anyway but he really looked off the pace. Jones, Maitland and Kinghorn didn’t get enough ball / involved enough.

    Hoggs clanger was a sore one, he won’t make that mistake again. In his mind he had scored that try before he was over the line.

    Ironically for being in Ireland I think we got the rub of the green with some of the decisions, makes it more annoying we could t make the most of it.

    1. Imagine if we’d won that…first away win against T1 opposition in so long, a win in DUBLIN of all places – and the agonising thing is that we were a fumble and a wide conversion away from getting the win, never mind all those chances we had snatched away from us at the breakdown.

  21. Everyone will hate me for saying this but Huw Jones didn’t do nearly enough to hold down that 13 jersey. Anonymous in attack and a bit lost in defence in a game that was in the balance.
    If it was any other position he’d get another chance but there’s good players on form behind him that deserve a start i.e. Hutchinson

    1. Jones got no ball whatsoever to decide but Toony might inject Harris next week. Actually Hogg was lined up in the wrong place for their try, but we dont see that . This was a much better performance than I expected , the result was no surprise. We made a lot of mistakes but it is not far away.I am not angry about this, Ireland know they were in a game and England will be unsettled.

    2. I’d absolutely love it if Hutchinson started next week – I’ve absolutely no idea what Toonie was doing bringing on HARRIS when we’d need to get Hutch on for about half an hour.

    3. I agree. He seemed to fall off tackles as well. Attack he’s a threat. Defence a liability.

  22. A young team played with spirit and skill.
    No point dwelling on Hogg’s fumble, we butchered about 5 other chances!
    As the team becomes more cohesive those errors should start to decrease.

    If they sustain this level of performance they will be a real tough team.

    For Ireland Stander was immense and van der flier not far behind.
    That’s saying something because I though every backrow on the pitch was outstanding.

  23. I think I have to admit that Toonys picks played pretty well. Not sure what else we can do with our back row which played well but was totally out played at the breakdown by the Irish back row! For O’Mahony to come out and say it was war and a hell of a fight means a lot though! Front 5 were good but I worry about our lineout. Think Johnson was our best back. Not convinced by Kinghorn on the wing. Hogg will make a good captain.

    1. I agree the breakdown technique of the Irish is so much better than ours. We have three excellent individuals in our back row but that’s how they play as individuals. Ireland’s ability to work together with the first up tackler chopping low round the ankles (without getting pinged for no arms) but using their full body length to isolate the ball carrier from the support and the second man looking for this and getting straight on the ball. I thought a couple of times Stander joined the tackle before it was completed and went on the ball without a clear release but regardless Scotland were to late getting there. I’ve been harping on about this for ages.
      The scrum was excellent, the line out poor.

      All in all a very big step forward far better in most areas and much more resilience but Hogg what are you doing?

      Also how that penalty against Johnson for shepherding runners hasn’t been reversed for the late hit on Hastings I’ll never know.

  24. We have a new defence coach; lots better. We have a new scrum coach; we WON the scrum battle. So we just need a line out coach, a break down specialist (didn’t we have one of those once?) & a really angry sports psychologist & 6N is the bag. It seems the coaching set up is finally going in the right direction but we still desperately need shoring up in some key areas before we can seriously challenge for the bragging rights. Next weekend will be interesting …

  25. Hardie was our breakdown specialist, I’d like to see Russell or Weir at 10 , Hastings will get there, well played thought

  26. Apologies for the slightly irrelevant question, but is that our first losing bonus point in the 6 Nations ?

  27. Can’t be too unhappy with that. To run Ireland that close in Dublin is a massive improvement over the World Cup.
    Yes, we could have won it, but going into it, most of us had Ireland winning by a fair distance.

    The performance was decent, the intent was there and flashes of potential. Just need to cut out some silly errors and get the line out and breakdown under control.

    In terms of players -apart from dropping the ball, I thought Hogg did well as captain.

    Horne needs to start, he injected a huge amount of momentum when he came on.

    Jones didn’t have his best game.

    Hastings did pretty well.

    Shame Hutch only got 5 minutes or so.

    Kinghorn was poor – can’t help but feel Darcy would have sparked something if he was playing….

    Not a bad start to the campaign, can face England at Murrayfield with a bit more confidence next week.

    (Ps it goes without saying, the referee made some odd decisions….)

  28. The BIG picture is being missed as usual, why the team had the attacking potential of a WW1 trench assault.

    Sun 19th Fin Russell played for Racing 92, beaten 27-24 by Saracens (Dodsons favourite team?).
    Russell gets harassed for having a drink when he gets back to Scotland from the match.

    Wed 15th it had emerged that Mark Dodson’s pay had gone up to £933K from its £574k level of of 2017, the SRU directors as a whole now £2111 compared to £1117 for 2017.

    No mention of the £70k world cup fine on the SRU thanks to Dodson dragging the reputation of Scottish rugby though the sewer in front of the world.

    Getting back to Fin Russell’s world, his father Ken Russell had to take the SRU and Dodson to court, Judge D’Inverno upheld Russell and castigated the SRU, Judge D’Inverno recording in his summary at one point “I was unable to find in fact that the respondent employer honestly and reasonably held belief”.

    Since then then more players have rationally fled Scotland and the SRU executive has become an ever more vigorous cancer.

    Its hardly surprising Fin Russell reached the end of his tether and departed the bizarre alternative reality of the SRU. Its a long time since I’ve been to Murrayfield, I’ll watch amateur games but avoid Roseburn, vomo, vomito.

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