Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Live on STV / ITV
With all the hurly-burly of Monday now fading into an ugly memory, Adam Hastings will direct the Scotland team at the Aviva from standoff and the real business of the tournament begins.
It’s a massive opportunity for him, as if he plays a blinder and can somehow back it up again next week then Finn Russell may have to work harder than a simple apology to get back in the team and earn that 50th cap.
He’s partnered by Ali Price in a Glasgow (past and present) heavy back line. The oft-debated centre partnership, at the end of it all, is Sam Johnson and Huw Jones, settled at Glasgow and possibly re-assuringly familiar to their playmaker. Matt Scott is unlucky to miss out altogether, but Rory Hutchinson and Chris Harris offer a range of cover possibilities from the bench. Stuart Hogg captains in a familiar back three grouping.
Elsewhere in the team there is one major talking point – Nick Haining (who has an actual Scottish granny) picked at Number 8 in an all Edinburgh back row as a reward for the barnstorming – and ball-carrying – form he’s shown this season, even despite a couple of injuries. The back row is still all Edinburgh with Magnus Bradbury sitting this one out injured, but Scott Cummings has usurped both Toolis and Gilchrist to claim a starting slot in the second row. On the bench, Cornell du Preez completes a remarkable comeback from that horrific larynx injury suffered in 2018.
If there is a worry it’s at prop with none of the looseheads starting much for their clubs and tightheads picked for their loose play rather than set piece. Rory Sutherland will be raring to go though and is looking at a fourth cap, his first in almost four years.
Scotland are not tipped to do much of anything in this tournament but with a brand new defensive system no-one has seen before, this is possibly their only chance to catch anyone napping.
Will Ireland, with some coaching changes of their own, be susceptible? They’ve selected a few on reputation (*cough* halfbacks *cough*), and from the World Cup we ourselves know how that goes.
On paper it looks a very tall order, but Toony has at least picked a team on form; that is the first step.
Ireland: Jordan Larmour; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O’Mahony, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt), Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Chris Harris.
Part II of Kevin’s preview will appear soon. His Ireland v Scotland preview Part I is here.