High-flying Irish to continue run
Ireland come into this one with confidence sky-high after a virtual second string comfortably saw off the challenge of Wales in Cardiff last Saturday – and with that victory propelling Joe Schmidt’s side up to the dizzying heights of second in the World Rugby rankings.
Of course Ireland have nothing but fond memories from the last encounter between the sides, with the Irish sealing successive Six Nations titles courtesy of a record-equalling margin of victory (40-10) in Murrayfield.
For Scotland, it’s all about trying to pick up the pieces after finishing bottom of the pile in that campaign. However it’s not all doom and gloom with Scotland playing some great stuff during the spring and going close in every game, bar the final game capitulation to Saturday’s opposition.
Vern Cotter’s men have plenty of quality young talent coming through and the head coach has looked to complement that core group by naming a host of overseas player eligible to represent the Scots.
This has not gone down too well with some Scottish traditionalists but the Kiwi is unmoved and appears determined to do whatever it takes to improve Scotland’s chances – with former Otago back row Hugh Blake one of those jettisoned in to make his debut here.
Elsewhere, Greig Tonks makes his first start at out-half while Ruaridh Jackson is in line for only his second appearance at full-back, with many of the established first-teamers not making the trip across the Irish Sea.
Ireland have named a stronger starting XV this weekend as competition for places really hots up, after plenty of fringe player put their hands up at the Millennium Stadium last week. Expect more to do the same on Saturday, with starters Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald and Chris Henry just one decent display away from booking their seats on the plane.
It is a measure of the settled nature of Schmidt’s side that just two non-capped players (Nathan White and Jack Conan) feature in the match 23.
This is the first of four warm-up games for Scotland, while Ireland will be all the better for having an impressive blow-out already under their belts.
Certainly, should the visitors win, there will be no repeat of their lap of honour after defeating the Irish in a RWC2011 World Cup warm-up game four years ago but you can be sure Scotland would take plenty of confidence from a result against their high-flying hosts.
It’s hard to see an in-form Ireland losing right now though and they should take the spoils, albeit not by the 30-point margin recorded in March. However the home side still look good to win on the three-way handicap (-17) at 13/10Add to betslip.
The match kicks off at 5pm on Saturday, August 15th at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.