PREVIEW: Ireland v Scotland

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 05:56

SIX NATIONS, ROUND FOUR: Joe Schmidt is a "rugby anorak" but it's his mastery of detail that can see Ireland edge to within a win of only their third Six Nations Grand Slam, Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll told AFP.

Schmidt, whose side on Saturday host a Scotland side boosted by a memorable win over champions England but with a woeful away record in the Six Nations, is not the one-dimensional coach often portrayed by some people, said O'Driscoll.

O'Driscoll knows Schmidt well as he played for the 52-year-old New Zealander at Leinster - winning back to back European Cups - and in the last year of his Test career which climaxed with victory over France in Paris to win the 2014 Six Nations title.

"Maybe we won back to back European Cups for him," chuckled O'Driscoll when he spoke to AFP at the Laureus Awards in Monaco.

"One word you associate with Joe Schmidt is detail. Like I have never known any coach to scrutinise a game like him.

"He is an absolute rugby anorak, it is his passion as well as his profession. He is a bit of an insomniac too as he watches so much of it.

"Great comfort of that is he already has a plan for England [their final match on Saturday week at Twickenham]. Yes, he has one for Scotland but for England he will have a fair idea of which way he goes and you will see him tweak two or three things." 

O'Driscoll, Ireland's most capped player with 133 and who captained them to the 2009 Grand Slam, illustrates Schmidt's versatility in sizing up opponents with a move against Wales in the 37-27 victory.

Although, it didn't come off it had been specifically planned on account of something the New Zealander had seen as a potential blindspot for the Welsh.  

"That was solely done for Wales because he [Schmidt] identified something," said O'Driscoll, who is the all-time record try scorer with 26 in the Five/Six Nations.

"You get that detail from him as different moves are identified for different teams.

"It's not a blanket policy that Joe deploys for taking on his opponents."

Thus far in his five-year reign, it has worked wonders - a thumping defeat by Argentina in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals being a rare reverse - with the highlights two Six Nations titles and an historic win over world champions New Zealand.

Schmidt combined coaching with being a school master when he started out in New Zealand.

"He isn't too schoolmasterly but you want to know what you are talking about, don't go off half-cocked," said O'Driscoll.

"He will sit you down too if needs be, he won't take any bullshit."

O'Driscoll added: "You are in school as a kid and the teacher asks what is the capital of France.

"A hand goes up and the pupil says Bordeaux..the teacher says 'very very good effort but no'.

"The next pupil says Nice, 'no' replies teacher but great effort, another says Paris and teacher replies 'well done'.

"With Schmidt, however, there is no bullshit so there will be no 'good effort' to those who answered Bordeaux and Nice.

"You want to be on the money the whole time so if you want to challenge something he says you better get it right, or have a very viable option to what he is 

Players to watch:

For Ireland: Garry Ringrose is a talented youngster and a lot rests on his shoulders in the important No.13 channel against the Scots. Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are a world class halfback pairing and Ireland will rely on them to guide them to victory. Powerhouse prop Tadhg Furlong is back in the front row and he can give the Scots a few problems in the scrums.

For Scotland: Huw Jones has been one of the players of the tournament so far. He gives the Scots and extra edge on attack and he is bound to terrorise Ireland's midfield pairing of Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki. Scotland's clash against England proved that Finn Russell is a match-winner with his all-round abilities on the field. The Scots also have a dynamic and effective loose trio in the form of Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson and John Barclay.

Head to head: There is a spotlight on the midfield battle with the talented Garry Ringrose and physical Bundee Aki up against the dynamic duo of Huw Jones and Peter Horne. Finn Russell outplayed George Ford two weeks ago and he will need to do the same against Johnny Sexton if Scotland are two win the game. Scotland also can't afford to let Ireland bully them in the scrums. Gordon Reid and Simon Berghan will have a tough task against Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy.

Recent results:
2017: Scotland won 27-22, Edinburgh
2016: Ireland won 35-25, Dublin
2015: Ireland won 28-22, Dublin
2015: Ireland won 40-10, Edinburgh
2014: Ireland won 28-6, Dublin
2013: Scotland won 12-8, Edinburgh
2012: Ireland won 32-14, Dublin
2011: Scotland won 10-6, Edinburgh
2011: Ireland won 21-18, Edinburgh
2010: Scotland won 23-20, Dublin

Prediction: It is certainly the match of the weekend. Ireland are on a quest for a Grand Slam and both teams are fighting for the Six Nations title. Scotland will have to prove that they can win away from home against the big sides in the Six Nations and they have the personnel to do it in Dublin. However, Ireland, despite a few injuries, are a strong unit at the moment and they are even stronger at home. It will be close - Ireland will win it by five points.


Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Blair Kinghorn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Lee Jones.

Date: Saturday, March 10
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.45 (14.15 GMT)
Expected weather: There will be some showers in the morning and then cloudy for most of the day. There will be strong South-Easterly gusts and a maximum temperature of 12°C
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Agence France-Presse & rugby365com

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Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 5 5 0 0 26
Wales 5 3 0 2 15
Scotland 5 3 0 2 13
France 5 2 0 3 11
England 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 1