Date: 6th August 2011
Time: 14.15 kick off
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Referee: Wayne Barnes
In the first game of what are being called the “EMC Tests” Scotland host Ireland at Murrayfield this Saturday. We look ahead to the weekends game and each team’s preparations so far…
Fielding a team missing several names that many expected to see, Andy Robinson is really experimenting with new partnerships and combinations. This is the first of Scotland’s two EMC matches, leaving little time for the players to stake their claims to the final World Cup Squad.
Included in the 22 man team, are two uncapped players, and given that Robinson hinted back in June that his uncapped players “may not be uncapped” by the start of the World Cup, I do expect to see David Denton and Jack Cuthbert take to the field.
Declan Kidney indicated earlier this week that he will use a the entire squad over the course of the tests, “I don’t think I’ll be playing anyone in all four games. I mightn’t be playing too many in three games.” Currently there are 43 players in camp, the squad will be cut to 30 in the week of the England game, and this gives everyone a good opportunity in making the final squad. One setback this week, word that Gordon D’Arcy is ruled out for the warm-up games as he has not recovered from the knee surgery he underwent in June. This is good news for Fergus McFadden who now looks more likely to claim the 12 jersey alongside Brian O’Driscoll come the World Cup, and gets a chance against Scotland to impress.
What to expect:
First game of the season, expect plenty of rustiness and handling errors from both sides, although the Scottish should be fighting fit after their marathon pre-season! Both sides will want a full test of all set-pieces, but won’t be firing 100% in the scrum. Given that the focus is all on the Rugby World Cup, expect the fringe players to give their all in order to squeeze their way into the match day squads for September.
It’s a surprise that the Northern Hemisphere teams have not opted to use Southern Hemisphere referees in their warm-up games as there is a significant difference in rule interpretations between the two sides of the world – it seems the home unions may have missed a trick here.
All eyes on:
Since Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy are both out for Saturdays game, there will be massive focus on the Irish midfield. The Paddy Wallace / Fergus McFadden combination has a chance to show how well it could work together, although both will be eyeing up the one available slot alongside O’Driscoll, which could lend an interesting dynamic to the partnership.
So far Ross Rennie has won all of his caps for Scotland off of the bench. He will certainly use this as an opportunity to claim his ticket to New Zealand. There is much competition in the Scotland squad for places in the back row, and Rennie missing out on the 2007 World Cup allowed John Barclay to come in and form that lethal “Killer B” combination. Knowing this, Rennie will be hunting down every opportunity to impact positively on the game.
Last fixture: Scotland 18-21 Ireland at Murrayfield, Six Nations, February 27 2011
Weather: Overcast, chance of showers, mild, little or no wind.
Prediction: In what will be quite an experimental game I have a gut feeling that Scotland may produce a surprise, Ireland are notoriously slow to get out of the blocks both early in the game and season. Scotland by 3.