Match preview: Ireland v Scotland, 6 Nations 2016

KO 5.00 at Aviva Stadium, Saturday 19th March
Live on ITV

This will be the reverse of last season’s final round of the 6 Nations – and both teams find themselves in very different positions 12 months down the line. Scotland’s winless run has been consigned to history while Ireland’s defence of their title ended early in this campaign. With the sides battling for position in the 6 Nations table a win or loss on Super Saturday will colour how this year’s tournament is viewed in the final analysis – but Ireland will feel more pressure to end on a high on their home turf.

Teams

IRELAND
15 Simon Zebo
14 Andrew Trimble
13 Jared Payne
12 Robbie Henshaw
11 Keith Earls
10 Jonny Sexton
9 Conor Murray
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Ireland
ADV Ireland
ADV Ireland
ADV Ireland
SCOTLAND
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Duncan Taylor
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Tim Visser
10 Duncan Weir
9 Greig Laidlaw (c)

1 Jack McGrath
2 Rory Best
3 Mike Ross
4 Donnacha Ryan
5 Devin Toner
6 CJ Stander
7 Tommy O’Donnell
8 Jamie Heaslip

ADV Scotland

ADV Ireland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Ireland

1 Alasdair Dickinson
2 Ross Ford
3 WP Nel
4 Richie Gray
5 Tim Swinson
6 John Barclay
7 John Hardie
8 Ryan Wilson

16 Richardt Strauss
17 Cian Healy
18 Nathan White
19 Ultan Dillane
20 Rhys Ruddock
21 Eoin Reddan
22 Ian Madigan
23 Fergus McFadden

EVEN
ADV Ireland
ADV Ireland
EVEN
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Ireland
EVEN

16 Stuart McInally
17 Rory Sutherland
18 Moray Low
19 Rob Harley
20 Josh Strauss
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Peter Horne
23 Sean Lamont

Overall
Backs – advantage Ireland
Out wide Scotland look stronger but crucially the 9/10/12 axis should favour the home side. A lot will depend on the work of the respective back rows and how they manage to disrupt (or not) the playmakers on each side.
Forwards – advantage Scotland
Scotland’s setpiece work has been very solid throughout the championship. There will be some fascinating individual battles in the pack but the breakdown contest pitting the 2 Johns against CJ and TOD should be the highlight.
Subs – advantage Ireland
There are really only 2 potential game changers among the replacements – Madigan and Horne. With both sides’ hands slightly forced by injuries to frontline players there is an interesting mix of youth and experience on the bench.

Team Talk
Three changes for Scotland – with Finn Russell and Jonny Gray missing out due to injury – and Ryan Wilson swapping places with Josh Strauss in the starting line-up again. There are even fewer alterations for Ireland off the back of a less intense match and an extra day’s turnaround – with a banged up Josh van der Flier the man to drop out.

Ireland Scouting Report:

  • The Irish scrum will be a test – they’ve only lost 1 in this Championship – but they did struggle against the French unit that Scotland had the edge over last week.
  • Their lineout has been solid but has wobbled at crucial moments – England and, to a lesser extent, France were able to put pressure on Rory Best’s throw.
  • Ireland will use the maul but it is not one of their primary weapons. Given perceived Scottish weakness in defending this tactic will Ireland change their gameplan to try and take advantage?
  • The rarely sighted Irish offloading game made an appearance against Italy. The 12 offloads in that match were more than double what they had attempted in their other three 6 Nations game combined (5 OLs). Will they stick or twist against Scotland?
  • Robbie Henshaw is key to Ireland’s attacking systems. He already has 55 carries in this 6 Nations (Scotland’s starting centres combined can only muster 40) and how he is defended by Alex Dunbar could have a significant influence on the outcome of the game.

Previous results
This will be the 9th time the 2 sides have met in Dublin in the Six Nations. Scotland have only managed a single win – the same as against Wales, but at least better than entirely winless runs in Paris and London…

L L L L   L W L L

Most recent meeting at the Aviva Stadium:

Ireland 28-6 Scotland

23 players return from that fixture – 11 for the home side and 12 for the visitors. Until this weekend Italy had been the only opponents Scotland had faced who had a higher turnover of players. Ireland’s bad luck with injuries and a process of rebuilding after the World Cup may have restricted Joe Schmidt’s options – but some talented youngsters have shown there is more than likely still a bright future for this Irish side.

Significant stats from that game

Tries:
Ireland 3 Scotland 0
Scottish tries have been a rarity in this fixture. In fact they’ve only managed to cross the whitewash 4 times in the last decade of championship matches against their Celtic cousins. This is the worst scoring record the Scots have against any of their 6 Nations opponents. It’s an area that is improving though with only 2 tryless matches in the last 25 since Vern Cotter took over.

Defenders beaten:
Ireland 18 Scotland 15
An illustration that not all missed tackles are created equal. Whereas when Ireland broke through they created (and took) scoring opportunities, Scotland couldn’t take advantage when they found any chink in the Irish armour. The dark blues efficiency in taking their chances last week (picking up points on all 6 visits to the French 22) suggests they may now be better able to capitalise when the defensive line is broken.

Metres run:
Rob Kearney 75m Stuart Hogg 75m
The 2 full backs made the most ground for their teams. Stuart Hogg was responsible for a huge proportion of his side’s offensive output (3 clean breaks, 6 defenders beaten and 4 offloads). The opposing coaches will have noted how key Hogg and Simon Zebo were to their teams’ attacking play in the last round of 6 Nations games and will be keen to minimise opportunities for the 2 number 15s to get the ball in their hands.

Officials:
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (SARU), Alexandre Ruiz (FFR)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (SARU)

This will only be the 3rd time M. Gauzere has refereed Scotland – a win in the US of A and last season’s 6 Nations thrashing at the hands of Saturday’s opponents, Ireland. At scrum time both teams need to expect a high percentage of resets, a low percentage of scrums successfully completed – and a lot of penalties or free kicks. As Glasgow have discovered already this season he will tend to reward the side who look to have the upper hand early on. If one side can dominate the first couple of scrums it could be a long afternoon for their opponents.

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