Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Ireland v Scotland, Six Nations 2022: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Ireland v Scotland
Graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog

After this weekend, these two sides have one more Six Nations match to go (at Murrayfield next year) before they meet in the World Cup pool stages in 2023. By the time they return to Dublin for the next Ireland v Scotland match in 2024 it feels likely that there will be very different sides running out.

11 of the Scottish 23 and 16 of the Irish squad will be well into their 30s by the time that fixture rolls around. At the start of a new RWC cycle there’s a strong possibility a lot of players in that kind of age bracket will have retired or will be phased out for younger options with 2027 in mind.

Tale of the tape

Tries   64
   Average weight   94kg
Total caps   260
6N caps   135
Average age   28.1

   Pack weight   898kg
Tries   22
Total caps   267
6N caps   123
Average age   27.4

Tries   23
Total caps   243
6N caps   112
Average age   29.1

2 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Italy)

  • 10 – Kinghorn for Russell []
  • 4 – Gray for Skinner [+]



Hugo Keenan
Mack Hansen
Garry Ringrose
Bundee Aki
James Lowe
Johnny Sexton
J Gibson-Park

Cian Healy
Dan Sheehan
Tadhg Furlong
Tadhg Beirne
Iain Henderson
Caelan Doris
Josh van der Flier
Jack Conan

Rob Herring
Dave Kilcoyne
Finlay Bealham
Kieran Treadwell
Peter O’Mahony
Conor Murray
Joey Carbery
Robbie Henshaw


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

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

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


Stuart Hogg (c)
Darcy Graham
Chris Harris
Sam Johnson
Kyle Steyn
Blair Kinghorn
Ali Price

Pierre Schoeman
George Turner
Zander Fagerson
Jonny Gray
Grant Gilchrist
Rory Darge
Hamish Watson
Matt Fagerson

Fraser Brown
Allan Dell
WP Nel
Sam Skinner
Josh Bayliss
Ben White
Finn Russell
Mark Bennett


Backs – advantage Ireland

This is a very similar Irish backline to the one that played at Murrayfield last season – Mack Hansen for Keith Earls and Bundee Aki for Robbie Henshaw the changes. On the day that group lacked a little bit of fluency with half the number of clean breaks that Scotland managed while Duhan van der Merwe on his own had the same number of broken tackles as Ireland’s backs combined.

Ireland are a year further into the Andy Farrell era though and with Jamison Gibson-Park keeping the tempo high this will be a test for Scotland’s defence, particularly out wide where the back 3 will need to be much sharper and more aggressive than they were against Italy.

Forwards – advantage Ireland

The breakdown battle is likely to be ferocious. Ireland will rely on the speed and relentless efficiency of their clear outs to provide quick, high quality possession. Scotland will hope their trio of ball hounds – Hamish Watson, Rory Darge and George Turner – supported by the strength over the tackle of Matt Fagerson, Pierre Schoeman and Zander Fagerson puts them in a position to challenge or slow any rucks where the Irish are not 100% spot on.

The setpiece could be anything from a mess to just a way to restart the game depending on the attitudes of the players and the approach of the officials. The home side will be smarting from their scrum being dismantled against England. The visitors will have in mind their own meltdown at the lineout last time they played Ireland.

Subs – advantage Ireland

The big unknown here is what impact Finn Russell can have coming off the bench. With just one previous sub appearance for Scotland (against Georgia in 2020) there’s not too much data to base an assessment on. Scottish fans will be hoping for some of what he showed for the Lions in the Third Test in the summer – although with chances taken and a better outcome!


– Stuart Hogg will become the first player to start 50 Six Nations’ games for Scotland Men. He has started in 50 of the 53 matches the national side have played in the championship since early 2012.

– With 770 caps in the matchday 23, this is the most experienced lineup selected in the Townsend era bar one – the 781 cap group who played against Ireland during the 2019 RWC.

– 12 of the Irish side and 12 of the Scots named for this fixture also played in that opening pool match of the World Cup in Yokohama.

– This will be the 90th match that Scotland have played since Finn Russell made his Test debut in July 2014. The Racing playmaker has started 60 of those 90 games at stand off. Can you name all 8 other men who have worn the 10 shirt for the dark blues in that period though?

– Potentially there might be just 3 games (including this one) remaining in Johnny Sexton’s career playing against Scottish teams. Sexton has featured 35 times against Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow and has lost on just 6 occasions. It’s been more than a decade since the stand off tasted defeat against a Scottish side in a competitive game and he’s on a 22-match winning streak against those teams. Can the veteran 10’s run in these fixtures be ended before he retires?

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

47 Responses

  1. The 10s in dark blue since Russell’s debut:

    van der Walt

      1. Not in the 10 shirt though, which was the question! There are others I’m sure who’ve played in the position, but starting in the shirt is different.

  2. After the latest news regarding the drinking session ( let’s face it , it would never happen under stern Vern), Ireland to have the bonus point sewn up by half time.

    1. Well said Gaffer. It’s the 5 nations wooden spoon that we are playing for. Statistically they tell me me , that’s progress and Townsend is the greatest Scotland coach ever . BBC2 Wales still shows the pro 14 games , BBC2 Scotland don’t?

      1. BBC Scotland is under the thumb of a Scottish Football Mafia whose blinkered attitude denies all other sports adequate radio and TV coverage. Perversely, they are also mainly responsible for the stagnation of the game they seek to promote.

  3. I’ve no issue with Townsend going, but Finn can go as well, he’s taking the piss out of people, it’s not just Townsend he is cheating, it’s people who follow the team.

    Finns actions now aren’t admirable, he’s selling people short, they – Finn and GT can actually both be wrong

    I don’t care if Finn thinks Townsend is a rubbish coach or players are being micro managed, he is supposed to be a bloody professionals representing his country have some pride in it Christ sake, “ripped the arse out of it” and a few more beers, beers on the train etc – it just isn’t a great attitude for the squad in general to have during a 6 Nations regardless of the coach, it smacks of players with no interest in going the extra hard yards needed to win it, very little time for a few of them.

    1. Says a lot about why there are too many skinny arms in the squad.

      Need more time in the gym instead of on the beers.

    2. Bob : I am not sure why you single out Russell. Hogg should lead by example. I recall Dallaglio losing captaincy for dissent.

      But , if I think about it , who else could or would be suitable ! Price and Harris are the only others I can think that are picked regularly by Toony.

      What a mess.

      1. Because it’s not the first time with Finn…

        I also make mention of others, Finn brags about the 5 guys diet, one or two beers wasn’t enough it needed to be 4 or 5, it needs to be 4 am, that’s utter POOPY from him and the others

        People have asked why this supposed talented group don’t win, it’s because they aren’t going to go the distance

        Townsend has faults but he went to bat to get them in a Lions tour while most of the Rugby world asked why, they on occasion show why the why was asked

        I’m not shocked Harris was on the media run

  4. I agree with the head to head ratings although on current form I’d probably give Keenan the edge over Hogg

  5. Embarrassing to the country. The Irish will take great heart from this. Game over in the first half

  6. On the Glesgae forum they reckon Finn was the only one out of the 6 who refused to come back and he stayed out on the piss until 4pm before staying at his parents.

  7. Scotland have often brought the one off miracle performance out of the fire when there is no evidence to back it up…tomorrow you just never know.

    Other thing to consider is we are 2 from 4 without really firing much of a shot. Good teams win when playing poorly. Had we squeaked an undeserved win in Wales we’d be similar to Ireland right now.

    BBC bring hope in that we haven’t lost a 5th round since 2016 and we’ve won 5 of the last 6 away games in six nations which was the Welsh debacle.

    You just never know. A fools hope.

    I dont think we need to be perfect tomo. Take 75% of try opps kick our points… (concerning that Kinghorn hasn’t kicked well for Scotland so far) and not compound error we’ll compete.

  8. Scotland Men are becoming too hard to support. Losing to Wales is one thing, getting gubbed by France is another.

    But the thing that puts me off most is the apparent laziness and sloppiness. They can play well, it’s not a skill deficit, but too often it’s like they can’t be arsed to engage either brain or body.

    Elite sport is about mental and physical intensity…

    Should start planning for 2027 now.

  9. I cant deny I ‘ve wanted Townsend gone since the WC fiasco. However I have some sympathy with him because although we have some decent players we are lacking in certain areas, namely TH, second row and no.8 . The one thing that often strikes me about us is that the sum of our parts is definitely not greater than the whole. Thats what Gatland brought to the Welsh and I felt Cotter brought to Scotland briefly before his premature departure. Gregor has never had that in my opinion certainly not over a sustained period.

    1. Reason is probably that the parts keep getting swapped in and out and don’t fit together!

      Gatland had the first six names on the team sheet settled for almost a decade: AWJ, Faletau, Biggar, Roberts, Jon Davies, 1/2p. They rarely let him down.

    2. I presume you mean the team isn’t greater than the sum of its parts? The Welsh have been a great example of that in recent years, man for man there is no reason to fear them but as a team they have done great things. We are essentially the opposite, some great players but it’s never quite been all added together properly to make something brilliant. On occasions it’s clicked but too few and far between and it just hasn’t happened at all this year.

      Not sure if it is still the case but Toonie is/was statistically the most successful Scotland coach ever. The bigger issue for me is the mental coaching of the team. Somethings not right and it hasn’t been right for a while. I get the impression Finn Russell is quite a temperamental character but you get people like that and they have to be managed accordingly, especially when they are as good as him. He hasn’t been himself the whole tournament. Hogg looks like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, the captaincy doesn’t sit well with him and he should be relieved of it and allowed to focus on what he is good at. I get the impression the Scotland camp is a bit like a dictatorship, joyless and overbearing.

  10. I love Irish people and Irish rugby fans, and Dublin after Six nations has been home to some of the greatest nights out I’ve ever had. But I truly find so much to dislike about Irish rugby right now, and it makes me sad.

    The team, which is apparently not dirty, but through some extraordinary coincidence, everytime we play them they do something illegal and one of our best players (Hogg in 2019, Watson at RWC, Gray last year) is injured for a long time.

    The Union’s constant pishing about everything from buses to world cup votes (if you want people to vote for your bid, do a better bid).

    The media, whose whole business model seems to be “if we’re stupid and reactionary enough, they can’t ignore us!” Neil Francis, Eddie O’Sullivan, Matt fricking Williams? Whose career highlight was “worst scotland manager ever”? And sure, their constant trolling of Scotland’s perceived underachievement is part of it, especially when you could argue that Ireland’s increasingly hilarious world cup quarter final exits are the biggest underachievement in rugby.

    Iain Henderson’s gormless face as he wandered up to the Paddy Jackson trial, on the day that the victim was testifying.

    Top to bottom, I can’t stand them. The odds are stacked against us ( Kevin’s head to head is more green than a seasick hulk) but I’ll go full Kevin Keegan if they do it.

    1. Agree.
      It pains me to dislike our otherwise fantastic Irish friends with whom we share so many cultural and family ties as much as I do about rugby.
      But I do.

      Yeah, well done Ireland, you got your professional structures right, you have an amazing schools cup which breeds players but the arrogance about it and the patronising view I’ve encountered that Scots are just a sort of weird Irish offshoot who are too spineless to be independent really gets me.

      Hope we do an England 2019. Or Croke Park 2010.

  11. I await Hogg’s interview after the match, win or lose . He will struggle to say anything new . Do we have a vice captain for a change ! Oh and I don’t think it is advantage Scotland at 15. Much too generous. He is just not suited for captaincy and should be left to concentrate on his own game.

  12. Mon the Italy!!

    Regardless of what happens today I will maintain that the low point of our 6N was failing to beat a rank average Wales team.

    1. Oh ferchrissakes, sport is not linear in this way.
      Look at what Wales did to France last week where if Jon Davies hadn’t wd40d his mits they’d have won.

      What an insult to call Wales rank average. They are incredibly proud and tough and come out of one of the world’s most intense rugby goldfish bowls in South Wales.

      We don’t have a god given right to beat them.

      I can’t deal with this bitterness and whinging.

  13. Holy moly. Italy just did what we couldn’t do in Cardiff. Incredible end to the game. Massive congrats to Italy.

  14. Wow, well done Italy, that’s us sealed 4th place which I’m sure we’d have taken at the outset of the company.

      1. Agreed. Finishing 3rd on points difference with just two wins would represent a below par campaign.

  15. Wow. Minimum fourth place guaranteed for us, but hats off to Italy. Uncovered a couple of absolute gems this tournament. Garbisi collapsing with joy will stay with me for a long time.

    1. Italy were magnificent, Wales very loose. Italy will build a competitive squad as their u20 players come through over the next 5 or so years. We have a lot of work to do to to keep our noses in front let alone take the leap to title challengers.

      I’m very glad we weren’t the team Italy broke their losing run against, even more delighted it was Wales given Warburton has been a cheerleader for kicking Italy out.

      1. Indeed. Wales looked like they thought they could turn up and win, and even in the last ten they looked like they expected Italy to crumble

        That last kick chase was insanely complacent, gaps everywhere. Brilliant skill and presence of mind from capuozzo though.

  16. Italy in Wales. Bet you learn a big fat zero Gregor. If we get stuffed you must do the honourable thing

  17. Delighted for Italy, and it is incredibly amusing to see Welsh commenters online.

    A real shame we did not beat Wales, they would of have been awarded the wooden spoon.

    My day is made anyway.

    1. We should have beaten Wales was a calamity in game plan having nailed the game plan for first 20 then Wales adapted we didn’t. However had we won I doubt Wales would have lost to Italy.

      This is excellent for tournament as whole but still we flatter to deceive once again.
      We must learn to make the team decision

  18. Attitude to play positive rugby is already more shown in the first 15 minutes vs Ireland than the rest of the tournament.

    Where has this been up to now? Don’t care about the result, just play exciting rugby like this please.

  19. Just felt like watching a rerun of any recent matches v Ireland … huffed and puffed…had chances ..didn’t take them …softly handed possession back immediately after winning a turnover. The usual Hogg f’up after seeking glory instead of passing to teammates in better position. How many times does he need to do this to realize he ain’t that great.

    We look like we’ve gone backwards this 6N…and by a fair bit too.

  20. – Kinghorn. Might as well play a shoehorn. Am no fan of Russell’s attitude but the difference in class was immediate. What on earth was Townsend thinking in keeping the lanky drain on and crooking Harris? Three wild schoolboy passes and a conversion attempt a giraffe could have managed. He is no No10. For me he is no No.

    – Schoeman. Real guts and effort. Nothing wrong with the tackle. Wayne Barnes did an excellent job today all round, unlike the old aunt of a TMO.

    – Price. So good last week. Back to box kick blunders into County Mayo today. Don’t they practise this? Like in the garden of a safe house?

    – Hogg. FFS, that’s two tries lost to his ego this 6N. Three-man overlap ignored. Critical point in game. Still has speed but must lose captaincy.

    – Steyn? Nope. You’re no stayin’ neither. A consistent source of zero inspiration.

    – Graham. Darcy is our darling. Such guts for his proportions. Exciting to watch and growing in stature everywhichway.

    – Townsend. Ta ta. Team pick and subs today reveal an agenda of his own. An agenda that loses what should be won. Does SRU know how to apologise to Vern?

    – Italy. Made my day. Magnificent in spirit. Destroyed Wales in intellect and energy on a day that should have memorialised AWJ and DB. Let’s end this yak about demoting them and enjoy watching them flourish.

    1. Totally agree. Hope that Townsend’s ego was massaged by his selections as don’t imagine many others would be impressed.
      Finn would probably be best served by declaring himself unavailable for selection, engaging a pr firm to expand diplomatically thereon (along the lines of his skill set not being in alignment with the current gameplan).
      -Something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark

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