This weekend promises a fascinating match in Edinburgh as Scotland and Ireland battle it out to stay within touching distance of leaders England. As Scotland ran in their fourth try against Italy in round two, Ireland were about to be put to the sword by a solid English side who won it from the boot of Owen Farrell. This weekend in the nation’s capital offers both teams the chance to win and get their tournaments on the right track while consigning the loser to fight it out to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
Reasons to back Scotland
Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson makes one change this weekend from the team who comfortably dispatched Italy as tighthead prop Euan Murray is replaced by Edinburgh’s Geoff Cross due to Murray’s religious beliefs. Aside from that, the Scottish side is exactly as it was when they finished off Italy with Johnson admitting that he is looking to add a competitive edge to the side while still managing to maintain consistency and direction. Johnson clearly has the team playing to their strengths, and they managed to minimise the basic errors against Italy while showing what they can do when they get the space to run.
Scotland looked impressive against an Italian side who had just beaten a talented French team and were thus full of confidence. The Scots drove them back and snuffed-out any attacking threats. Scotland showed flair, vision and confidence, something fans have been starved of for many games, raising the question as to where has it all come from? They crossed over for four tries, their first quadruple for over a decade, while impressing with their resilient defending and commanding presence. More of the same will stand them in good stead against an injury-ravaged Ireland side.
Ireland pose a different test to Scotland but with the new mentality Johnson and his coaching staff have instilled it has left the squad hungry for success, with each member ready to go out and grab the win rather than hoping it comes to them. Scotland have an opportunity to prove that the Italy win was no fluke, that they have finally broken from the shackles of the Robinson era and are ready to get back amongst the hemisphere’s best. With players like Laidlaw, Scott, Hogg, Visser and Beattie all playing well, the Scots could find themselves a tough nut to crack.
Reasons to back Ireland
Ireland make multiple changes to the team who lost the closely-fought battle against a tough English side. The chance of four consecutive Lions tours looks to be beyond Ronan O’Gara as he will be replaced by Ulsterman Paddy Jackson. O’Gara was pedestrian against England, all over the place with wayward passes, poor kicks and terrible decisions which ultimately gifted the victory to England. Tom Court replaces Cian Healy, as he serves a ban for stamping, while on the left wing Keith Earls comes in for Simon Zebo and the experienced Donnacha O’Callaghan starts in place of Mike McCarthy.
Talismanic centre Brian O’Driscoll has managed to shake-off an ankle injury to start and will breathe experience, drive and talent into a backline which possesses an array of players with great potential. Ireland have the tools to beat an inexperienced Scottish side, and they come into the match knowing that a win will get them right back on track to challenge for the Six Nations crown and prove that the English defeat was nothing more than a blip.
Ireland will have history on their side as they have managed to beat Scotland at Murrayfield in the Six Nations every time since 2003. Of the two sides Ireland look the more likely winners, with a fit O’Driscoll, strong forward pack and talented back-line the game is there for the taking with the opportunity to add yet another year onto that already impressive win streak in Scotland’s capital. Ireland by 6.
By Alexander McLeman